The 2015 general elections will provide the country with a choice between two leaders with two contrasting personalities, programmes, visions, and agendas.
It’s because our national elections usually boil down to a contest of leadership.
Lloyd Best called it “doctah” politics. As Sparrow said of Dr Williams: “Who’s not with me is my enemy... and I say that Solomon shall be Minister of External Affairs...Who doh like it, get to hell outta here”. Doctah politics dictated that the party opposing the PNM had to recruit Dr Rudranath Capildeo.
George Cha mbers was more benign; ANR Robinson was more pragmatic and decisive but he had the misfortune to inherit government after 30 years of PNM wastage. Patrick Manning (1991-1995) was OK. Basdeo Panday was a “performance beats ole talk” kind of leader. Mr Manning (2001-2010) was arrogant, dictatorial and disconnected. Now we have Kamla Persad-Bissessar, a consensual, performance-oriented and decisive leader who understands the power of timing.
It is Ms Persad-Bissessar, unlike Mr Robinson, who has for the most part held together a disparate group of parties and will govern, if she so chooses, for five years. This despite numerous statements from detractors that her government would not last anywhere near a full term.
It is Kamla who has presided over a record of performance: first-class major road networks, hospitals being built by the grappe, a highway to PNM-controlled Point Fortin, unprecedented increases in foreign direct investments and legislation to change the landscape of our country forever and for the better.
Let us take the procurement legislation passed last Wednesday in the Senate. Jump high, jump low, that landmark legislation will promote the kind of good governance that the country has yearned for since independence. It will ensure that all public expenditures will be subject to the kind of scrutiny never before seen in this region. This was achieved under Kamla’s watch. Look forward to significant improvements in our standing for good governance by international agencies.
It was Kamla who introduced legislation to amend the libel legislation which now gives the fourth estate the power to do its watchdog job.
It was Kamla who took decisions in the national interest when it was not in her interest so to do. She held local government elections when they were constitutionally due. She dealt with erring ministers when the evidence suggested that she should.
The PNM’s record has been tested and found wanting, whether it be press freedom, dealing with ministers who fell out with the law or holding local government elections, which the PNM repeatedly postponed.
Under Kamla our economy is improving, investments in our energy sector are promising, unemployment is low, workers operate under negotiated terms and the Ministry of Tertiary Education is in overdrive.
With an oil industry of more than a century, can anyone tell me why a drilling school was only established under Kamla’s watch?
In the other corner stands Dr Keith Rowley.
On the plus side he stood up against Mr Manning’s alleged corruption, but only after Mr Manning put him out of the cabinet.
He introduced one member, one vote in the PNM… OK.
He built a record number of houses while holding a ministerial portfolio. However there were numerous complaints about the quality of the houses.
So Dr Rowley’s record is not that impressive.
One would have thought that given that reality, he would as a matter of priority, articulate a vision for T&T that would blow our minds.
But his vision remains unwritten and unarticulated. He is either unable, unwilling or incapable of telling us what he stands for and how he intends to lead us to the Promised Land.
He wishes to win by default and govern by vaps.
If that is his hope then how are we sure that under a Keith Rowley government murders will not escalate as they do every time the PNM is in office? How do we know there won’t be a dictatorship that would make Mr Manning seem like an angel? Will income inequality widen especially in PNM-controlled areas? Will we witness mindless and wasteful spending in urban areas leading to intolerable traffic jams on all routes to POS and spiteful neglect of rural areas as was done in the past?
Unless Dr Rowley comes up with a plan, I give rounds one, two and three to Kamla Persad-Bissessar.