“The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the sons.”
Something confusing occurred last Thursday, May 28. It started with a news report that Fuad Abu Bakr, the political leader of the New National Vision, was going to be screened by the People’s National Movement as a candidate to contest the Port-of-Spain South seat. While this was confirmed by Mr Bakr, the PNM issued a press release refuting his claim. Even the Prime Minister commented that Mr Bakr’s name was not on the list of nominees. Much like the changing story of the March 27 meeting, the public is left to ask, “Who and what are we to believe?” Both stories can’t be true… or can they?
I don’t believe that Mr Bakr would make such a boldfaced lie, going so far as to show up at Queen’s Hall uninvited. So let’s assume that there’s some truth to his claim—what are the possible motives and implications for the PNM to associate itself with him?
Firstly, let’s address the obvious issue. Fuad is the son of Yasin Abu Bakr (born Lennox Philip), the man who led the 1990 attempted coup. That was 30 years ago. But it raises the question of the electorate’s ability to separate the (good?) intentions of the son from the misdeeds of the father.
Putting aside that risk, there’s also the fact that Mr Bakr, if he were to be chosen, would be a political neophyte. On one hand, we shouldn’t dismiss the party’s inclination to include fresh faces; we saw this with the appointment of media personality Jason “JW” Williams to the Senate. But on the other, this government has learnt the hard way that newcomers have a propensity of turning into liabilities. Dr Lovell Francis, Darryl Smith, Glenda Jennings-Smith, Nicole Olivierre, Shamfa Cudjoe, and Stuart Young have all been marred in controversy. Their actions have contradicted the Prime Minister’s boast that his government would return morality to politics. The screening process could be a way of “cleaning house”—to get rid of those members who have brought the party into disrepute. If they disappear from the Parliament, so does the scandal.
That makes the choice of seat that Mr Bakr would supposedly have filled an interesting one. Currently, it is being held by Marlene McDonald, whose position in the party has been in jeopardy following her arrest on charges of corruption. Since she has the support of her constituents, this would have been a calculated move to replace her with someone who would be accepted based on name recognition. That’s what happened to Randall Mitchell, who was pushed aside in favour of Brain Manning, the son of the late Patrick Manning. One can’t deny that the Bakr name holds some weight in certain “hot spot” communities.
Party machinations aside, what are Faud Abu Bakr’s intentions? Since forming the NNV in 2010, he has criticised the PNM and UNC, describing them as two sides of the same corruption-stained coin. That’s been his central argument as to why a “third force” is necessary to change our political landscape. To his credit, he has managed to keep himself in the media spotlight (though his last name does help). He campaigned heavily in the East-West corridor in the last two elections. And in February of this year, he attended former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday’s “small party unity” meeting. It’s clear that he has political aspirations, and his willingness to align himself with the PNM only proves that. Granted it’s easy to label him a hypocrite for doing so after lambasting them, but he won’t be the first political opportunist who switched allegiances. That’s a character flaw voters could look past once his name is next to the correct party symbol.
Now, again, all of this is purely speculative. The PNM has made its choice of candidate for the Port-of-Spain South seat… and it’s neither Ms McDonald nor Faud Abu Bakr. But what’s the truth behind the confusion? Was he scheduled to be screened and the party backed out because of the negative public sentiment? That could very well be the explanation… and here’s why.
The biggest challenge to Fuad’s credibility is his connection to Yasin Abu Bakr, and it’s not just because he is his son. To date, he has never denounced his father for the 1990 coup. During a 2015 interview with a news website, he said his father did what he thought was best for the country. That’s unacceptable. Let me be clear— I am not saying that he should be judged on his father’s actions. But if he can’t unequivocally state that what his father did was wrong, then how can he be taken seriously when it comes to good governance.
His father led a violent insurrection; people died, part of the capital was razed, and millions of dollars in property was lost. It would be an insult to the memory of those citizens who lost their lives, and to the rest of the population who lived through those terrifying events, to have him sit in our Parliament without making his position clear regarding the man who stormed that building with the intention of overthrowing what it stood for. That’s not his father’s sin… that’s his own.