Rowley's no-show sends clear message
The atmosphere at Piarco International Airport on Tuesday evening was celebratory. The young, the old and the ones in between, representing the cosmopolitan nature of Trinidad and Tobago, all made their way to the airport to welcome home the longest-serving parliamentarian in T&T.
And while the supporters, predominantly from his constituency of San Fernando East, all sang and danced in the hours before Patrick Manning's return and then surged ahead as he alighted from the Customs area, one thing was glaringly obvious, the rank and file of the People's National Movement (PNM) was absent.
Apart from former MPs Gary Hunt and Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, current MPs Dr Amery Browne and Alicia Hospedales, as well as former senators Laurel Lezama Lee Singh and Joel Primus, deputy political leader Joan Yuille-Williams, Youth League personalities, both past and present, and a few other faces, the leadership of the PNM was absent.
The obvious absence of Mr Manning's parliamentary colleagues and the leadership of the PNM is no doubt an indication that the PNM (as far as the leadership is concerned) has turned its backs on the man who led this party for over 20 years.
One would have expected that in light of Mr Manning's pro-longed absence as a result of his health concerns, at least political leader Dr Keith Rowley and party chairman Franklyn Khan would have been on hand to greet the political heavyweight. The absence of Dr Rowley, in particular, is inexcusable as Mr Manning was not returning from a vacation. He was coming home after prolonged illness. This was supposed to be a joyous occasion for all, from the political leader to the grass roots.
In his thrust to move the PNM forward, Dr Rowley seems hell-bent on throwing out the baby with the bath-water. He cautioned supporters a few weeks ago at a PNM public meeting, at the Croisee in San Juan, that there were "mischief-makers" in the party and their time had come. However, his actions on Tuesday proved to be mischievous, to say the least. He seems to want to disassociate the current dispensation of the PNM to the Patrick Manning era.
Whatever his motivation, this blatant discourteous treatment to Mr Manning leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many supporters, primarily the young people of the party. Whatever grouse Dr Rowley had with his former leader seems to continue today as he seems unprepared to bury the hatchet.
Mr Manning should no longer be seen as a perceived threat to the political leadership as he has said, time and time again, that he no longer seeks any political aspirations—even going so far as to offer his resignation to his constituency executive, which was rejected. Mr Manning has put his constituency on notice that he is not offering himself as a possible candidate in the next elections.
Dr Keith Rowley needs to get on with the business of the PNM and the country as a whole. He needs to show the population that he has what it takes to be the next prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and not the petty person he is being made out to be.
Many within and outside of the PNM have issues with his leadership, and if he continues in this vain, the protest by young people outside the party's headquarters on Saturday last may just be the beginning of things to come.
PNM National Youth League