Major test for Dr Rowley
The turnout at today's protest march, called by the Joint Trade Union Movement led by Ancel Roget and which includes the People's National Movement and others, will permit some measure of the breadth and depth of public opposition to the ruling People's Partnership.
The march is particularly important to PNM leader Keith Rowley, given the less-than-overwhelming size of attendance at the PNM's convention last Sunday at the Queen's Park Savannah. Similarly, though unfavourable weather may have been the cause, scant numbers at the heavily promoted Red House protest two weeks ago also raised questions about the size of the constituency being assembled.
There may also be many citizens who, although in favour of the removal of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and National Security Minister Jack Warner from their respective portfolios, may not wish to be identified either with the PNM or with trade union leaders. For this floating constituency, the People's Partnership and the PNM provide an option only between a rock and a hard place.
Since his elevation as Political Leader, Dr Rowley has neither said nor done anything which demonstrates that he intends to excise the PNM defects which propelled the party's defeat in 2010. While he is pushing for the one-person-one vote change in how the party's leader is chosen, Dr Rowley has not offered even a general mea culpa for the governance travesties which occurred between 2001 and 2010. On the contrary, he has insisted that the PNM is fundamentally great and altruistic and needs only to stick to its founding 1956 principles. Apart from sidelining history, this is hardly the way to win over the swing voters who determine electoral victory.
But Dr Rowley has been lucky in having the ruling People's Partnership hand him the Section 34 debacle, an issue so appalling that he now has the relatively easy task of transforming widespread public outrage into political action. The quality and quantity marking today's exercise could confirm the political viability of the expressed goal of removing the two ministers. The alternative result would be to persuade the Government that the marches and their organisers achieve little more than disruption and destabilisation.
If that happens, then Dr Rowley would have proven that, contrary to his rhetoric, his interest in Section 34 extends no further than political survival. If, as he says, his primary concern is the national good, then he must take the time to build a widespread coalition of interests against Section 34, rather than creating and participating in purely political events for PR purposes. It will require a patient non-partisan campaign to pressure the Government to come clean on Section 34 and take action to ensure that such manipulation of the nation's laws never happens again.