Sunday, February 18, 2018

PNM rethinks coalition option


PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley

Mark Fraser

THE People’s National Movement (PNM) has returned to its roots.

That was the position of PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley and chairman Franklin Khan yesterday as they responded to the view that the PNM was moving away from its "win-alone, lose- alone" posture and was moving instead towards a coalition style of politics.

In prosecuting the Section 34 affair, the PNM joined with other organisations to stage two marches- one in September and another last Friday.

Some political analysts have seen this as a major change in the PNM’s approach to politics.

But speaking yesterday with the Express, Rowley said he had merely returned to the PNM’s original moorings since Eric Williams, in defining the party in the PNM’s charter, stated: “We are not a party in the ordinary sense of the word, rather we are a convention, a rally, cutting across race, colour, creed, class, uniting for the common good.”

Rowley said Williams was stating that the party, while not prepared to align itself with any group simply for the sake of office, was a coalition of sorts, embracing all under its banner. These are not idle words in the People’s Charter, he noted.

Rowley said that “win alone, lose alone” “was something that evolved out of somebody’s mouth somewhere. It never formed part of the PNM’s fundamental doctrine,” he said.

“I am positioning the PNM to be what the PNM said it was,” he said. “The bottom line is that we are making an effort to be what we said we are - a convention, a rally for all cutting across race, colour, creed and class. And the single purpose is to unite for the common good,” he said.

“We don’t have to be the same thing on every issue. It says we just have to unite for the common good,” he said.

Rowley said the PNM became over time so “inward-looking and so talking to itself” that it eventually imploded.

He said, however, that those who talk about coalition as being possible or not possible should remember that during the 18-18 period, it was a PNM General Council that met at Balisier House and authorised the political leader to go to Crowne Plaza (now Capital Plaza) and negotiate with Basdeo Panday if he had to. “And the General General told the political leader that whatever he negotiated in those circumstance it will support. A PNM General Council gave the political leader a free hand to go and negotiate,” he said.

Chairman Khan said the position of the PNM, as articulated by Williams, was a coalition of forces representing the national interest.

“That was clearly stated by Dr Williams. The ‘win-alone, lose-alone’ syndrome that was particularly articulated by Mr Manning, we think the politics has changed significantly to warrant a rethink of that position,” he said.

Khan said the party was exploring its options and would take no important decision without going to the PNM General Council or the National Convention.

He said the party was far away from any formal coalition (designed to fight an election), but it claimed the right to associate with any person or group whom it feels is operating in the national interest or who shares some of the thinking of the PNM.

“But the adoption by the PNM of a monolithic culture would not stand scrutiny in this modern era,” he said.

He said the party, however, was guarded with whom it associates and the kind of alliances it was building. “But we are in the process of building national alliances with forces which we feel are compatible with us,” he said.

Senator Fitzgerald Hinds said the party recognised that it was not the only element in the political atmosphere, but recognised that there were other persons and organisations and it was prepared to collaborate with them in the interest of a better Trinidad and Tobago.

He said the party must reach out and be flexible while holding on to its moral, spiritual and political principles.