In a symbolic gesture to signify their voice has been silenced in the Parliament, supporters of former Prime Minister Patrick Manning placed masking tape over their mouths as they mounted a silent protest outside his San Fernando East Constituency office yesterday evening.The gesture has been used internationally to bring out political and social change. Yesterday, in a show of solidarity, mainly female supporters of the People's National Movement (PNM), dressed in red T-shirts, used placards to carry the message of discontent with Monday's suspension of the man who has led them for 40 years.
Under the watchful eyes of the police, the 50-odd supporters marched in front of the Coffee Street office, with placards which read: "Give us back our voice"; "Rise above pettiness"; "Government is in contempt of our democracy"; "Kamla rise - time to fall"; "Great is the PNM and it shall prevail".Manning is in Cuba undergoing medical treatment and is due to return to the country on Friday.Constituency chairman Tina Gronlund-Nunez said they informed Manning, as well as the general secretary of the PNM, of their course of action, which would continue indefinitely. She said it was a constituency executive decision.She said there would be a special general council meeting today and a regular general council meeting on Saturday and expected the hierarchy of the party would take some decisions on what course of action they would pursue in light of the suspension.
Asked about the small number of supporters who responded to their call, Gronlund-Nunez said she was surprised by the size of the turnout, given that the decision was only made hours earlier.She said there was a showing of people from other constituencies, including Couva.She added: "The PNM is one party. We might be 41 constituencies but we are all one party. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder, especially when one member is knocked down in our Parliament."Asked why the decision to take such action when under Manning's administration another former prime minister, Basdeo Panday, was suspended, Gronlund-Nunez said:
"I cannot speak on how other parties react to such action."The people of San Fernando East strongly believe with the voice being taken away from the Parliament, they no longer have a voice."Telling her that some may argue that the people of San Fernando East has not had a voice for the past year because the representative has been silent, Gronlund-Nunez said she disagreed with that percept