Saturday, March 2, 2024

Agonies of Golding and Manning


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Analysis by  Rickey Singh   THE POLITICAL agonies of the Prime Ministers of Jamaica (Bruce Golding) and Trinidad and Tobago (Patrick Manning) appear to be worsening and raising serious questions about their future as leaders of government in the Caribbean Community.At the time of writing, Golding was locked in the latest of a series of crisis consultations with various arms of his ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)  as to whether he should bow to increasing demands from the parliamentary opposition, business  and civic organisations  to quit as Prime Minister.Golding’s recent  self-confessed sin that is traumatising Jamaica was that he had personally misled the people of Jamaica by an earlier denial of his involvement in recruiting a United States law firm to engage in lobbying work to help avoid the requested extradition by US authorities of an alleged major dealer in  narco-trafficking and  gun-running – Christopher “Dudus” Coke, widely known to be an activist JLP supporter.   On the other hand, across in Trinidad and Tobago, Manning’s People’s National Movement has been pushed on the defensive to deny his involvement in highly controversial expenditures of state funds linked  to a church, whose female pastor he had publicly idenfitied as his  “spiritual adviser”. In addition to relevant documents on claimed misuse of state land and funds linked to the construction of the Church Of The Lighthouse Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the leader of the main opposition United National Congress, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has now raised a series of questionable expenditures incurred  on the Prime Minister’s new official residence and diplomatic centre through the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDECOTT).Persad-Bissessar, who is the designated prime ministerial candidate  for a “people’s partnership” coalition for change, has disclosed that all relevant documents were to be made available this week to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)  and the acting Police Commissioner to investigate “criminal wrongdoings” in accordance with  the country’s  anti-corruption law.With just one week  to go before next Monday’s vote, Manning’s 31-month old administration has been effectively driven  on the backfoot to defend mounting allegations  of poor governance.For his part,  Golding’s 33-month-old administration is faced with a survival dilemma that some regional constitutional experts think leave him with the choice of either advising the Governor General  to dissolve parliament,  or to resign.Consistent with established norms of the Westminster-style multi-party democracy to which governing and oppposition parties in CARICOM generally subscribe,  a head of government who confesses giving false information on a matter of grave national importance – as done by Golding –  can expect to face a no-confidence motion, having damaged his personal credibility and that  of his administration.In Trinidad and Tobago, where Manning felt obliged to abandon – even before reaching mid-term – a five-year mandate won in an electoral landslide  in November 2007, his political mantra for  the May 24 poll is that  the anti-PNM coalition  is “doomed to failure”,  but indications point  to the contrary.In his anxiety to woo support for his prediction about the longevity of a UNC/Congress of People (COP) “partnership” in government, Manning has gone even further by forecasting the collapse,  in one year, of Britain’s first coalition government since World War II.In contrast, Persad-Bissessar, the first woman to head a major party in Trinidad and Tobago, has been wooing supporters with her claim that the British Prime Minister David Cameron-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats had “gone the way set by us”.However, such enthusiasm must contend with harsh reality; notably that the perceived popular surge towards her coalition force could run into trouble with a simplistic assumption that the massive electoral defeat suffered in 1986 by Manning when he called  a snap general election could be repeated in 2010. Her literal tearing  up of the PNM’s manifesto last week, within  days of its official release, may have been an entertaining act for emotional and aggressive advocates of “time for change”, but it was  hardly an intellectual response. And in the absence of its own manifesto up to the time  of writing, the “people’s partnership” crusade has to avoid undermining its own credibility in what  it offers for “change”.


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