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The Mannings...one year later
Today marks a year since the country’s fourth and sixth prime minister, Patrick Manning died. For the Manning family it has been both a challenge to deal with the loss of a man who played a major role in their lives and also an opportunity to seek ways to preserve his legacy.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Guardian, the family’s spokesman, Brian Manning said the loss has led to he and his brother spending more quiet time reflecting, while his mother has thrown herself into her consulting work that includes working with young people.
He said, “It’s difficult to lose a father and to lose someone who was a focal point in our lives. I think it’s the most private we have been in a long time.
We needed time for ourselves, to focus on taking care of our lives and our emotional needs. It motivated us to focus on his legacy and the vision he had for all of us.
“I found solace in having some more quiet time. I spent more time by myself, not letting a lot of people in for a while because I needed to be alone with my thoughts and my feelings; my mother has really poured herself into her private consultancy. That includes working to improve the lives of others, especially young people, that is what I think brings her comfort and peace.”
Brian said his mother was now a certified life coach and worked with organisations in improving productivity and leadership among young people to help them improve their self-esteem and achieve their goals.
Manning died on July 2 at the San Fernando General Hospital, where he was admitted for treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia, a rare form of cancer.
Brian said while it had been a challenging year, the family was now clear on what it wanted to do to preserve Mr Manning’s legacy.
He said there were four major projects that the family planned to roll out in honour of Mr Manning.
Brian said his father never wrote a book and the plan was to now launch a book that would look at the former prime minister’s life and career.
The family also wants to have a Distinguished Lecture Series in which the lectures will be based on development issues and ways that T&T can diversify the economy.
Brian said the third initiative was the establishment the Patrick Manning Regional Development Fund with the aim being to work with international bodies to deal with extreme poverty in the region and also to promote a regional recycling project to assist the environment.
The Manning family also wants to have an exhibition that focuses on Mr Manning’s legacy as politician, husband, father, and a son, while maintaining an updated web page on Mr Manning.
Manning’s focus was on development
Brian said his father’s main focus was on the development of the country and that his father understood that the oil and gas sector would have faced challenges because of the advent of shale gas and tight oil.
He said the idea was to use the country’s natural gas to go downstream into heavy industry including aluminium, plastics, iron and steel and out of it forge a manufacturing and services economy. He pointed to the International Financial Centre and Tamana InTech Park as examples of his father’s vision to move away from a dependence on oil and gas.
“We had lengthy discussions about policy about vision 2020 and about where he saw the country going. The plan was about diversifying the economy. If we are using the gas to develop downstream energy-intensive industries then we can produce and become competitive at producing any good.”
Brian said his father’s greatest focus was on the development of the country’s human capital and that is why Mr Manning saw Gate as one of his greatest achievements.
“His focus in my mind was in developing people. We cannot become a country of people who are all doctors and lawyers and engineers. That does not develop a society.
“There will be people out there who want to be artistes, musicians, athletes, what are we going to do to give these people an opportunity?” he asked.
“That is why I think it was essential that Gate remained without a cost because that levelled the playing field. It gave everyone, regardless of social standing or economic background, an opportunity to educate themselves in a field that they were passionate about.
“I have heard people complain about the lack of skills including tailors, plumbers etc, so we cannot be a country of four or five professions.”
Brian said Mr Manning was about his constituency and even as prime minister, he made time for all kinds of community events and was always in Pleasantville.
Brian said, “He felt that it was part of the job, spending time with the community and interacting with the common man.
“It’s why he was there until 10 pm to 11 pm during his office days even as prime minister.”
Everyone must have an opportunity in T&T
Brian said Mr Manning warned that T&T had to ensure that regardless of political persuasion that everyone had an opportunity to participate in the country’s economic development.
“We are preparing ourselves for extremely hard times if we do not find ways to include everyone in our economy. I hope everyone in Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of the political divide, accepts that, because if everyone does not have an opportunity none of us will be able to live in Trinidad and Tobago comfortably.”
Brian said while winning elections was an important part of the job, Mr Manning did not see it as the be all and end all of his life and when he made the controversial decision to call an early election in 2010 and was crushed by the UNC-led coalition, Brian said that Mr Manning even up to his death felt it was the right thing to do.
He explained that it was an issue of legitimacy and that in the wake of upheavals and allegations of dictatorship the late prime minister felt there needed to be revalidation of his government.
On the love they received after Mr Manning’s passing, Brian said the family was grateful. He explained, “It felt to me that people were upset and did not understand certain things and over time were appreciative of what he was trying to do. He took responsibility for calling the election and it did not go his way and felt the people needed to decide what they wanted going forward. “
Brian also thanked those who supported his family during the loss, including Mr Manning’s political opponent Basdeo Panday whom he said the Mannings always respected. He said even now, he regularly sees Mr Panday and the former prime minister is always friendly and cordial and has never passed him straight.
Memorial for Manning today
Yesterday, at the People’s National Movement’s (PNM) media briefing following its general council meeting, Energy Minister and PNM chairman Franklin Khan said a memorial service for Manning, who died on July 2, last year, will be held at 8 am today at the St Paul’s Anglican church, Harris Promenade, San Fernando.
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