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PM to team: Step up to the plate

Published: 
Thursday, November 23, 2017

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has read the riot act to his team of ministers, senators, parliamentary secretaries and Members of Parliament, telling them that at mid-term the “image” of the party and MPs is “not healthy” and they need to “step up to the plate” and be more “in tune” with the needs of the people they serve.

The Prime Minister spoke to the team at a luncheon meeting at the Diplomatic Centre, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Well-placed sources told the T&T Guardian the meeting was organised shortly after the party’s 47th convention on November 12. Analysts yesterday said this was significant, given that the PM and political leader will usually use the convention to bring the party up to speed on what the Government is doing.

But Government sources said there was nothing “strange” or “unusual” about yesterday’s meeting, saying it was simply that Rowley wanted to have a “discussion” with his team because they are not in the Cabinet.

Just two weeks ago at the party’s convention, Laventille West activist Wayne Griffith expressed concern at what he said was a “disconnect” between Cabinet, MPs, senators and the base of the People’s National Movement. He urged the party to pay more attention to “our foot soldiers, who at times feel alienated.”

The concern seems to have struck a chord in Rowley, who yesterday told his team that at mid-term there was need for introspection and urged them to “step up to the plate.”

During the three-hour meeting, he is said to have specifically told MPs they had a responsibility to look after the needs of the people who elected them. Team members were cautioned they needed to collectively do more to build on the gains the party had made in the last two years and to ensure they were on the pulse. A Cabinet source said there was no “talk of any snap election on the horizon.”

With two by-elections looming in Barataria and the other in Belmont, Rowley said those with responsibility to look after the needs of the people must be “on the ground, and more involved.” Rowley reminded the that Local Government elections are are due in 2019 and they need to “get out there and listen to the people.”

Rowley has himself been seen more about in his constituency and just this week residents in Tobago West reported seeing their MP, Shamfa Cudjoe, on walkabouts.

Asked whether any mention was made of La Horquetta Talparo MP Maxie Cuffie, who has been ill for almost two months and out of office, the T&T Guardian was told neighbouring MPs will be making an effort to attend to the needs of his constituents.

Several people who attended the meeting said Rowley was “like a father speaking to his children, helping us to understand that what we do is important for good governance. Our job is to ensure that all citizens are looked after.”

Asked how they felt after the meeting, those who spoke said “normal,” but they got the message, adding that “when those from within complain it means that all is not well and we have a lot of work to do.”