So Gaston, my friend, we probably should begin with apologies to you if, upon reading this, you do a a double-take at “contagion of evil” which, in recent communication with you, was my choice of label for the now deposed government of Trinidad and Tobago, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Honestly, I didn’t know that descriptive would have stuck with me since our exchange of notes, but it did. And now that the reign of a blood-sucking posse masquerading as government has been terminated, Trinidad and Tobago will hopefully be able to exhale. Even as, up ahead, the going figures to be challenging, following the recklessly corrupt ways of those who previously walked the corridors of power, as Dr. Keith Rowley, the new prime minister, intoned in accepting the country’s mandate.
Among the traits exhibited by the Bissessar government during its five-year term was a certain classlessness. And the ex-prime minister was evidently determined to adhere to habit when the bell tolled Monday night. In a “concession” speech and remarks to reporters, Bissessar could not summon the grace to congratulate Dr. Rowley, preferring instead to point out a few times that her party had secured more of the popular vote than Rowley’s People’s National Movement (PNM).
Bissessar has fine-tuned the art of seeing and knowing truth and calling it false; and proffering falsehoods as truth. She continuously demonstrated this during her tenure and was once again true to form in post-election remarks. Asked to respond to what many had characterized as a brutal campaign run by her party — a campaign which seemingly had as its core objective the personal savaging of Dr. Rowley — Bissessar insisted the party ran a good campaign that “focused on the issues.” Asked about the future of the People’s Partnership coalition she led — a coalition which everyone knows has latterly been a “partnership” in name only — she replied that the Partnership is “very strong.”
The larger number of overall votes garnered by her party (which may not be accurate), to which Bissessar alluded probably speaks to rigidly tribal voting patterns in areas that comprise the base support for Bissessar’s predominantly Indo-Trinidadian party, United National Congress (UNC). The Jack Warner storyline is illustrative of the tribalism factor in the country’s voting. Primary “sponsor” of Bissessar’s ascendancy to the party leadership and becoming prime minister in 2010, by 2013 when Warner and Bissessar parted ways, he was able to resign his seat and win it again overwhelmingly in a special election as head of his own party. But by this year’s general election, with the UNC’s continuation as ruling party at stake, and with Warner by then even more vituperatively anti-Bissessar, he got blown away by his Indo-Trinidadian opponent.
As we said last week, though, it would be the Bissessar administration’s accumulative notoriety – rampant corruption and flagrant abuse of governmental authority – that would guarantee its collapse.
The taint of institutionalized skullduggery that dogged the government from rather early in its term was the kind of giant-sized blemish to which only base support would typically turn a blind eye. The upshot was that almost all of the seats won by the UNC beyond its heartland in the Patrick Manning repudiation vote that was the 2010 election, were lost by the UNC this time around.
Even so, success for the PNM would not have resulted without a well planned and executed campaign and without the leadership presence Dr. Rowley has come to represent. Indeed, not only with respect to the just concluded election campaign but over the five years preceding it, Dr. Rowley has made significant strides as head of the party, leading the PNM in the process to four consecutive electoral victories. Trinidad Express columnist Raffique Shah commented a few days ago that the one aspect of the 2015 election season he found noteworthy was the emergence of Dr. Rowley as a leader and orator.
The rise of Rowley cannot but dial up a flashback to the man he succeeded as PNM leader. The out-of-control locomotive Patrick Manning obstinately chose to steer right into the 2010 debacle he created for the PNM was already on course for things going awry when Manning planned and effected a totally unwarranted humiliation of Dr. Rowley. Regretfully, Manning, who has been ill, apparently continues to harbor a vindictiveness, where Dr. Rowley is concerned, that puts him in much the same league as Bissessar and her aforementioned lack of grace.
If only for the unusual fortitude and tenacity he has shown in the face of a battering from sources both presumably friendly and openly hostile, Dr. Rowley, it would seem, has earned his prime ministerial shot.