CRACKS IN THE HOUSE

The clearest signs yet of cracks and fissures in Trinidad & Tobago’s 25-month-old governing coalition appeared at the weekend when the labor-led Movement For Social Justice (MSJ) announced that it was leaving because of dissatisfaction with the way the country was being run and how workers were being marginalized by authorities, among other complaints.

David Abdulah said the MSJ is not only leaving the five-party coalition that ousted Patrick Manning’s People’s National Movement (PNM) two years ago but he would also be giving up his seat as a government senator in the upper house.

He timed his widely expected announcement to coincide with Labor Day celebrations in Caricom’s largest and most robust economy to announce his departure and to attract criticisms from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar about alleged recklessness and unreasonableness in the months when the Movement was part of her cabinet and government.

“We have not taken this decision lightly or easily. We recognize that we have a responsibility to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago as we were an integral part of the partnership that campaigned in 2010 and asked you to vote for the Partnership to be your government. We do not regret that decision. It was the right thing to do at that time. As it is the right thing for us to now withdraw from the Partnership,” he said.

The MSJ had for months been complaining about the refusal of the Administration to properly raise wages to reflect cost-of-living increases and the apparent unwillingness of authorities to tackle corruption and a host of other ills. He had also suggested that while the faces in government had changed “nepotism, discrimination, patronage and corruption are still the order of the day in too many enterprises.”

For her part, the prime minister dismissed the MSJ’s exit as a move that would strengthen rather than weaken the Indo-led coalition, saying that some of its demands were “impossible, unreasonable and reckless. It seems David’s entrance into government never allowed him the advantage of a national perspective. He remained trapped in isolationist thinking. You cannot negotiate governance like a labor union leader representing the interest of only one group. In government your responsibility is larger than that,” Persad-Bissessar argued, daring to suggest that her government is the most transparent in recent memory in Trinidad.

The announcement drew quick reactions from analysts. The Trinidad Express quoted scientist Dr. Winford James as expressing no real surprise about the latest developments, noting that ““labor has been acting up for a while”.

Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday who founded the United National Congress (UNC), the dominant party in the coalition said it appears that the MSJ was becoming less comfortable with the way the country was being run and is returning to its labor roots.

“I think what is bothering the MSJ, as indeed the same thing is bothering the Congress of the People (COP, is that they are being perceived as being part of the corruption, waste and mismanagement of the Partnership as a government. I think they are trying to extricate themselves from that because it will affect their future political ambitions,” Panday said.

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