Partnership report card
We are heading for the home stretch in national politics. The local government elections are over; we have a mayor in Chaguanas; and the PNM is in full throttle, offering its members two leadership candidates from whom to choose. It won’t be long before we see the gatherings of red and yellow, and before cars parade through our communities with loudspeakers blaring political calypsoes. I would like to consider the prospects of the ruling party by issuing them a report card. The purpose of report cards is to communicate performance status at a point in time. The areas I am going to cite in issuing the card are (a) The Prime Minister herself (b) Prime Minister’s leadership (c) the Partnership as an entity (d) Tobago (e) Crime (f) Ethics (g) National Unity (h) Value added (i) Governance, and (j) Are we rising? I will now briefly describe each category, comment on the Partnership’s performance, and award a grade.
First the Prime Minister herself. This category speaks to the Prime Minister as embodied in Kamla Persad-Bissessar. In my view she is the shining light in the Partnership. She is one of the few women in the world to have run a country, and on grand stages, such as in her role as the Commonwealth Chairperson she represents the country well and makes us proud. She is bright and has prime ministerial gravitas. She also has made important overtures to the Baptists, shows up when little people are beset with grief, and has supported Khafra Kambon’s Emancipation Support Committee efforts. On being Prime Minister I give Kamla Persad-Bissessar an A-minus.
The Prime Minister’s leadership. I speak here on the Prime Minister’s decision-making. Here the picture is not as good. She often opts for expediency. The replacement of John Sandy as National Security Minister was a colossal error. Despite being warned, she appointed Jack Warner to the Cabinet without insisting that he resign from his FIFA position. She often appears to be following her colleagues, not leading them. She sends mixed signals to our Caricom neighbours. Winston Dookeran, instead of being treated as her best ally, was demoted early. On leadership I give her a C.
The Partnership as an entity. This is easy. Labour is at odds with the coalition. David Abdulah is long gone. There is oil in the Gulf, and union marchers on the streets and outside Parliament booing Government ministers. COP is virtually gone, now weaker than when it joined. Ashworth Jack has been humbled. Then there is Jack. The grade here is D.
Tobago. In the 2010 elections the Partnership swept Tobago. In the more recent local elections it lost all 12 seats to the PNM. This was a vote of anger. Ashworth Jack lost all of his capital there. There have been important overtures to ANR Robinson that salvages this somewhat. The re-naming of the airport is more than symbolic, and continued attention to his personal health is humane. The grade is C.
Crime. The Partnership started well here. Having inherited a bad hand, it went to a brilliant state of emergency. In 2011, with the state of emergency the murder toll was 354. For inexplicable reasons John Sandy was fired, the SoE was abandoned, and Jack Warner brought in. The murder toll climbed to 383 in 2012, and 407 in 213. With the state of emergency the Partnership had surpassed the PNM by a mile in its approach to crime. Then they simply abandoned the SoE. There is of course the failure to appoint a Commissioner of Police. The grade here is C.
Ethics. On ethics we can begin with the passing around of silk. The Chief Justice came to his senses and returned his. There is also Section 34, which seemed designed towards narrow ends. Volney lost his job here but should not that have been Anand Ramlogan? Then there is emailgate that the Government seems to have trouble defending. There has been the spate of people holding big jobs with fake credentials. The cabinet showed up for a wedding in Tobago, where the host is still battling extradition in the courts. The grade here is F.
National Unity. The overture to the Baptists is the most powerful example here. The St Barbara’s school is of historic significance. But this was undone by the talk of South Caroni River, and the assault on black professionals when the Partnership came to power. The holiday for Keshorn Walcott helped, but where are the technical institutes in Toco and Sangre Grande? The priority is the Debe law school. The PNM community that abandoned Manning for the Partnership was left out in the rain. The party does not count you as among them if you are lodged north of the Caroni River. The Partnership could have benefited greatly here from the appeal that Dookeran has. But they put him in a box. The grade here is C.
Value added. What has the Partnership added that has improved our lives or well-being? I think the world sees us a very civil place, willing to place a woman at the helm. Computers in schools is a good idea. But this is a party that got 29 of 41 seats, winning up and down the East-West Corridor. It has lost rather than gained capital in the interim through self-inflicted wounds. The grade is C.
Governance. Whichever way you shuffle the deck, the picture is ever more commess, ever more confusion. The Government has spent its four years adrift, struggling mightily to prevent itself from imploding. It is now back to the UNC, and, with that, to the mixture as before. The grade here is C.
Are we rising? No. To levitate you must leave the ground. You are either on the ground or off it. Our country has mostly have been stuck in the mud under the Partnership. Grade is F.
Notes to the leaders: This report card indicates that the great potential of the party has been squandered. Remember, you started with 29 seats. You have been involved in too much internecine bickering. Jack Warner has been an albatross. Anand Ramlogan scares people. Winston Dookeran has been marginalised, though it is he who caused many blacks to turn away from the PNM to your grouping. There is much room for improvement. You have squandered capital.
• Theodore Lewis is emeritus professor, University of Minnesota.