“Very, very happy”
These were the words of former prime minister Patrick Manning yesterday when asked by the Express how he felt to be back in the Parliament after two years.
Manning suffered a stroke on January 23, 2012, which paralysed his right side and affected his speech.
He has been recuperating over the last two years during which time he was given extensive leave on the grounds of medical illness by House Speaker Wade Mark on the basis that his requests were always supported by documentation from his doctor.
The San Fernando East MP walked into the Parliament Chamber where he sat for almost three hours before taking his leave at 4.20 p.m.
The media followed Manning for comments but he opted not to say much. When asked what he thought of the crime scourge facing the nation, he replied, “Have a good day.”
Manning, the longest serving member of Parliament, has always been known for his eloquent speeches. However, he sat silently in his chair yesterday except when he said a few words to Arouca/Maloney MP Alicia Hospedales who sat next to him.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley warmly welcomed Manning back to the Parliament.
Before he began his contribution to the Bail Bill, Rowley said, “Mr Speaker, I take the opportunity to enter this debate and I just want to on behalf of all of us in this House welcome back our colleague from San Fernando East. He has some very significant challenges which he has fought and is still fighting and we wish that he will continue to improve to get back as close to normalcy as possible in the shortest possible time. We on this side, we are particularly happy to have our full complement to continue in the service of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Manning listened and nodded in Rowley’s direction.
Sport Minister Anil Roberts was one of the several Government members who also welcomed back the former prime minister.
“Welcome back to this House. And, you came in a way that is befitting of your position and the position of the PNM, you came in with showtime and I am glad that you look very strong, healthy, walking in...because you look like (Kieron) Pollard, you look like if I put you in a cricket game you could hit a ball for six but I also hope you are strong enough to take a little licks,” said Roberts as Manning chuckled.
Before entering the Parliament, Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar told the media he was personally happy to see Manning return.
“We are all human and we are subject to these failures and it is refreshing to see after that challenge that he is able to come back to his duty, so I am very happy for him, for his family and for the country. I wish him well, he has carried himself with dignity over the years, so I personally am very happy to see him back,” said Ramadhar.
Although Manning has been out of the public limelight for two years, the love for the former PNM political leader was still very much evident as a group of supporters gathered outside the Parliament building, dressed in red to celebrate his return.
“You can’t keep a good man down!” one woman kept shouting as the crowd cheered when Manning exited his vehicle accompanied by his wife—former education minister Hazel Manning.
Manning held Mrs Mannning’s arm and walked through the crowd of mostly women whom he smiled with and greeted warmly.