Daily Express editorial commented last week on Prime Minister Patrick
Manning's admission that he accepted free flights and travel arrangements
- (a euphemism surely - one imagines a luxury jet replete with champagne
and foie gras) from British Gas and Repsol on his recent European trip.
has been claimed by some that this sort of behaviour comes across as
unethical since luxury gifts may be seen to compromise the interests of
nobody, not even the Opposition, seriously believes that Mr Patrick
Manning is the sort of man who would dig holes in our Treasury in exchange
for a personal bribe. Call it a woman's instinct but a man who uses leaden
anachronisms such as "in the year of our Lord two thousand and
two" instead of "2002" does not have it in him to be
it appears that what Patrick Manning really wants (more than a jet ride)
is to go down in history as a statesman, a visionary, far surpassing the
legacy of the late Eric Williams. Mr Manning aspires to become a legend.
Or as one businessman says "he wants to be the CEO of Trinidad
Inc." The intimations of grandeur are there, easily gleaned from his
self-appointed post of "Father of the Nation" to his more recent
reference to his second political coming.
is now recognised as a "maximum leader" and in order for a
maximum leader to survive in our democratic political system he needs four
Discipline within his party. In the PNM discipline is tighter than at any
time since Eric Williams's days. The shrinking violet reticence of
formally independent thinking Cabinet members suggests that Mr. Manning is
not a man who takes easily to advice, makes his own decisions, and likes
to steer his ship single-handedly.
The direct support of his people. Mr Manning has bypassed his ministers
and spin doctors and gone directly to his people, pumping at least $300
million into CEPEP, URP and other make-work projects. That's what these
walkabouts are for.
A weak opposition. This he has, abundantly. When the UNC lost the election
each parliamentary member of that party lifted a veil that revealed their
true selves. And what we saw was not pretty. As a group without their
accoutrements of cars, drivers, access to the Treasury, government
departments, they "boiled down like bhaji". They were stunned
the average citizen of this country, including the illiterate (only one in
two can read newspapers, remember?), poor (more than 300,000 people live
on less than US$2 a day), vulnerable (who hasn't thought, looking at the
image of yet another dead body, that that murder could have happened in
their family?) and ill, yes ill-because so many people are victims of an
absent health care system, was dumped. Even the veneer of caring for a
population was dumped because they were no longer in fancy offices. That
hurt a lot of people. It hurt the cane workers who expected effective
representation. It hurt the victims of kidnapping who really wanted
certain legislation pushed through Parliament. It hurt citizens who know
one vital role of an opposition is that it puts checks and balances into
governance. So the opposition lost much of its support.
upshot is that Patrick Manning now just has to deal with hot air and a
deflated opposition that is almost fatally punctured because it has also
lost its moral authority. That's the opposition dealt with.
Freedom from dependence on the party's financiers. When people or
companies contribute to a political party they want something in return -
at least a say in running the country - from large scale FTAA agreements
to land zoning and action on crime.
how does he become independent of his party's financiers? As a master in
the art of being deliberately obtuse perhaps he already is. All policies
are thickly protected under a seemingly impenetrable patina of
bureaucracy. He simply has to look blankly at them and say he is following
procedure and that should stump them (because although people like to ask
for favours they don't actually like it to look like they are.)
there are tics and fleas about that Patrick Manning has to demolish, daily
irritants, questions in the House, in the hush of his cabinet, a
placard-bearing crowd - that sort of thing.
what happens once Prime Minister Patrick Manning is able to free himself
of these encumbrances?
get a Maximum Leader. A man who remains Prime Minister of Trinidad and
Tobago for the next 20 years (and perhaps President after that) a man who
single-handedly takes Trinidad and Tobago into Vision 2020.