Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Manning ends 2-year absence

Back in House tomorrow


Flashback: San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning at Piarco International Airport in December 2012 after returning from Cuba, where he did a medical check-up, following his stroke on January 23 that year. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Mark Fraser

After a two-year absence, San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning will return to the Parliament tomorrow.

Manning suffered a stroke on January 23, 2012, which paralysed his right side and affected his speech.

He took two years to recuperate 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.

Manning’s last application for leave, which was made in September last year, expired in late December 2013.

Manning is not the only member of Parliament who has received extended sick leave.

Arthur NR Robinson after the 1990 attempted coup and Eulalie James after the amputation of her leg were both MPs who took extended leave.

Manning took the longest leave in the history of the Parliament to date.

And during that time, there were calls from people like Jack Warner for him to resign his seat.

Manning’s decision to return to the Parliament, which had been communicated by him to People’s National Movement (PNM) officials last weekend, was announced by him to the national community yesterday at 9 a.m. via Facebook.

“Back to work. See you in Parliament on Friday,” the post said, immediately getting hundreds of likes and comments. Comments such as “Best news for the year!”; “Welcome back my PM”; “De boss is back”; Long overdue”; “My Patos is back”; “Our saviour returns” and “PM for life” littered the social network.

Some were not as embracing: “Mr Patrick, stay home with cousin Hazel and rest yuh body nah” said one person. “Going back is one thing, going back to support Dr Rowley and the PNM is another”, was one observation.

Manning, whose appearance on the back of a pick-up in support of several candidates during the recent local government election, was perhaps indicative of his return to good health.

His return to Parliament will see a readjustment to the PNM seating arrangements in the House of Representatives.

Manning was originally in the last seat in the front row. During his absence the PNM won an additional seat — St Joseph — and Manning’s seat was moved to the back row, directly behind Chief Whip Marlene McDonald.

Party sources said Manning expressed a request for the seat to be readjusted to his original place (in the front row) which would be more convenient for him. Paula Gopee-Scoon will move to the back row, behind McDonald to accommodate Manning’s request.

Commenting on his return yesterday, McDonald said: “When he spoke to me (indicating that he would be coming back to the House) I welcomed him back. This January is exactly two years he has been away, so I welcome his return. He has been the longest serving member of Parliament so we look forward to his return. We have always wished him a speedy recovery. And the mere fact that he is returning shows that he is doing quite well physically and otherwise. So I am happy to have my full team there, as Chief Whip. When he left there were 12 of us, now there are 13 of us. And down the road there would be many, many more of us. So I am happy.”

It is not known whether Manning, who has not attended party caucuses, since Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley assumed leadership of the party, will attend these sessions now.

Manning indicated on several occasions that he would be retiring from politics when the next general election is called.

As recently as October 21 when he went to vote in local government elections, Manning indicated that he would be retiring after serving out his current parliamentary term. However notwithstanding this, his return is fuelling speculation that he is preparing to resume the PNM leadership and is planning to contest the imminent internal election.

Sources said yesterday that, according to Manning, he is on a path to full recovery.