Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Leadership? Please note Dr Rowley

(Louis Lee Sing, a member of the PNM for all of his adult life, has often found himself out of favour with the party’s leadership of the PNM. In the early 1970s, he was suspended from the PNM, accused of subverting the party. Early in his term as Port of Spain mayor, moves were made within the party’s leadership to impeach him as mayor for writing a letter to the political leader criticising the timing of Dr Rowley’s just vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Today Mr Lee Sing begins a series of four articles which speak to issues within the PNM.)

Under the best of situations, leadership is a difficult proposition. A political leader has an even more onerous task, as one must balance competing demands with responsibility and equanimity. Needless to say a prime minister must not only be a leader, but must bring to the table the essentials of sound management.

Eric Williams in a speech on the responsibilities of party members in the multiracial society of Trinidad and Tobago, had this to say: “You are the election agent of the PNM, the symbol of a nationalist outlook, and PNM recognises neither racial differences nor sectarian differences nor colour differences nor class differences. PNM recognises only the nation.” (Forged From The Love Of Liberty: Selected Speeches of Dr. Eric Williams, Page 116).

A political leader is not only judged by what he says and does, but also by the company he keeps and what his lieutenants say and do. In Tobago, Hilton Sandy’s ill-advised and inappropriate comments on the “Calcutta ship” were dealt with immediately. That action was correct then and it is correct now.

Dr Rowley’s silence on comments made by Fitzgerald Hinds re the issue of him being “too black to be Prime Minister” is eloquent enough. Taking on the Express over its editorials and how this is to be reconciled with the advice of Dr Eric Williams further highlights how far the PNM has shifted from its centre of focus.

The party’s internal elections will bring many challenges, not the least of which is to keep the conversation balanced. The bad-mouthing and character assassination that was symptomatic of the UNC internal elections of 2010 ought to be avoided at all costs. Today the UNC’s internal politics still suffers the legacy of ill-will. Yet three days before nomination day, trusted Rowley lieutenant and the PNM’s deputy political leader Marlene McDonald publicly berates and vilifies the current candidate for political leader Pennelope Beckles-Robinson. To date, Dr Rowley has neither distanced himself from these comments nor said anything to the contrary.

“No one will attack my Government and get away unscathed,” former prime minister Basdeo Panday once said and it is apparent Dr Rowley is enacting this now infamous statement to the letter.

If anyone, be he president, MP, senator, chief justice, judge, magistrate, police, lawyer, nurse, CEPEP worker, teacher or plumber, did not hear Dr Rowley as he slammed the media two weekends ago, I recommend all citizens get a copy of this broadcast and listen closely to the fighting mad leader of the PNM.

As I listened I remembered Basdeo Panday way back when he defended his government which had already collapsed while in office and he, Panday, did not know it.

I am not drawing any conclusions but I believe the country, i.e. both PNM diehards and unrepentant UNC supporters as well as NOTA (none of the above), are getting a clear understanding of the nature of the mind and the man, Dr Keith Christopher Rowley.

To state a position different to Dr Rowley or to be critical of his position is to court disaster as some of us in the PNM have found out.

I have sat and witnessed over two years some party members on the receiving end of Dr Rowley’s venomous rebukes.

Mr Manning is perhaps the person who could best give us a thesis on “20 years of Keith Rowley’s venom”. Maybe even “born again” Rowleyites could speak to the issue of who is and who was “wajang”.

What concerns me, and I am convinced, concerns all God-fearing citizens must be his reception of and responses to a recent newspaper editorial and indeed commentary by newspaper columnist — Lennox Grant.

Grant, I have long felt, has neither respect for anyone nor anything PNM and so I hold no brief for him!

Dr Rowley’s beef with the editorial has to do with his view that it “was written like a column” and he was concerned that the editorial was concentrating on the company he kept.

What Dr Rowley is not addressing is that all of this negative commentary was born out of comments on his blackness made by his friend and youth mentor, rastaman Fitzgerald Hinds at Dr Rowley’s leadership campaign meeting held at Belmont weeks ago.

What is emerging is that the comments on Dr Rowley’s blackness may yet turn out to not be the blackest thing in the leader of the country’s oldest party in this very plural society of ours.

The media are learning today what others already know — Dr Rowley takes no prisoners. The collective media, and I use “collective” deliberately, must come to grips with the fact that it is witnessing a changing of the guards in T&T and to intervene in this rhythm would be to encourage reprisals of one kind or another from a warrior versed in the art of war.

I encourage the media to think carefully about their responses to Dr Rowley’s nightly contributions at his political leadership campaign meetings.

To ignore this advice is to court ongoing conflicts with a man who is likely to be our next prime minister. Maybe we can as a nation find a way to save ourselves from this unnecessary tension.

(This series continues tomorrow)