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Rowley vs Grant

By Rickey Singh

THE OUTCOME of the current leadership battle within the People’s National Movement (PNM) is still seven weeks away and there is more than a year before the next national parliamentary elections. However, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley is already revealing surprising negative vibes for an experienced politician seeking to become this nation’s next Prime Minister.

While current indicators point to his likely success in retaining his post as party leader against the courageous first-time challenge of a woman in Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, it is far too early for any serious, informed forecast of the results of general elections 2015—never mind the guessing  game of some “polls”.

Except for occasional interruptions following the passing of its founder-leader and the country’s first prime minister, the remarkable Dr Eric Williams, the PNM has been routinely taking charge of governance, a pattern that was to significantly change from the 1980s.

First, there was the emergence of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) and subsequently the United National Congress (UNC) which was part of a coalition that scored a massive electoral landslide at the May 2010 poll to form the current People’s Partnership administration that left the PNM with merely a dozen of the 41 seats in the Lower House.

So why is Dr Rowley seemingly so angry, if not really nervous, at this comparatively early stage in the process, even if he feels that he already has the PNM leadership in firm grasp ahead of the party’s coming internal poll?

More  specifically, why did Dr Rowley choose to engage in so-called “wajang” politics—to reference a description of him by former prime minister and PNM leader, Patrick Manning—against Lennox Grant?
A consulting editor and regular columnist of the Express—Mr Grant is recognised as being among the more outstanding journalists of this nation of highly reputable media practitioners. I am quite pleased to identify him as one of my admirable professional colleagues in this and other member states of our Caribbean Community.

That public platform behaviour last week by the PNM leader with the famous “F” word stridently punctuated, as reported, was partly in response to a recent column by Mr Grant in which he suggested, among other contextualised barbs, that Dr Rowley had been left “time-warped by the Manning years…”

For such journalistic bravado, in the reasoning of Dr Rowley—sandwiched politically between the PNM leadership challenge and the coming 2015 national polls—it was the occasion to demonstrate his election campaign capacity for what’s widely known, regionally, as “badjohn” behaviour.

Consequently, he opted to reduce the Express consulting editor and columnist, who has devoted 46 years to serving in a variety of professional positions with national media enterprises, to that of “a politician who once ran against the PNM and lost his deposit…”

Mr Grant was to quickly rebut, in his own unique style of writing, that Dr Rowley’s claim was sheer falsehood: “It never happened…I never ran against the PNM…”

Surely, even Dr Rowley’s close advisers, among them speech-writers and political strategists, would be aware of Mr Grant’s involvement in key positions at both the Guardian and Express, long before his current status with the latter. Former leading journalists of both these newspapers are currently in different positions—across the political spectrum. No need to go into details.

What’s of relevance are the positions to be adopted by local media organisations representing journalists and media practitioners, as well as the leading media enterprises themselves on the unwarranted personal broadsides hurled at Mr Grant. The Guardian has already been forthcoming with an editorial response.

It may be too much to ask of Dr Rowley to retract the personal abuse hurled at Mr Grant. But at least he could be advised to correct gross errors such as when he cast the maligned journalist as “a politician who once ran against the PNM and lost his deposit…”

Don’t hold your breath for an apology.


* Rickey Singh is a noted Guyana-born, Barbados-based Caribbean journalist.
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