Referring to last week’s tragic murder of Tecia Henry, ten, what did Mr Manning mean by telling the audience not to take at face value the facts of the case as they believed them to be? Was he sending a message of some sort, or trying to brush aside the horrible crime that took the life of this ten-year-old-girl?
We don’t know, as he failed to elaborate when approached later by reporters.
Mr Manning could have used the occasion to condemn this murder, including to appeal for public help to find the killer(s), and to more broadly reassure the public about the Government’s fight against serious crime. Further, whatever particular insights, if any, that Mr Manning may have into Tecia’s tragedy, the bottom line is that a ten-year old child has been murdered and the nation, not only Laventille is shaken by the tragedy.
Mr Manning made several strange statements about the political state of the country and the region, which in our view, demand close scrutiny. He reasoned that Trinidad and Tobago must integrate with its Caribbean neighbours whose citizens are seeing such tough economic times that they are going to come to this country.
While we fully support economic cooperation with our neighbours, political integration is an entirely different matter, particularly if Mr Manning sees it as a solution to his perceived threat of mass migration to TT from the Eastern Caribbean. It is as if he was saying that Grenadians and Vincentians are going to come here anyway, so let’s legitimise this migration before it occurs, which is a very strange way to make policy.
In contrast, suspicion lingers in the minds of some observers that Mr Manning who once called himself “Father of the Nation”, now sees himself as some sort of “Godfather of the Caribbean”, which of course he denied.
While Mr Manning is casting his eyes over the seas, what about the curbing of political rights occurring right here in Trinidad where citizens have been denied the right to choose their own local government representative, with the Government cancelling local elections for three years running?
On the heels of the steadfast refusal of Local Government Minister Hazel Manning to clear the air in Parliament on whether or not such elections would be held this year, Mr Manning’s speech only added to the uncertainty. While he had previously told supporters to “sharpen your political cutlass” and so raised hopes of local polls, in contrast on Sunday he detailed reforms to local government including city-status for Chaguanas and Arima which certainly cannot be done in time for the July date when local elections are due.
Polls seem unlikely even in an extended deadline of October, because of the wide- ranging nature of all the changes of council boundaries hinted at by Manning involving the drafting of laws and a White Paper, public consultations, parliamentary debate and the administering of these changes at ground level.
We did not detect any pledge from Mr Manning on Sunday to hold the local elections this year.
Mr Manning also suggested Trinidad and Tobago financially help its Caribbean neighbours as he boasted that oil-prices have recently rebounded to US$69 per barrel. In our view it is simply too soon to tell if this is a sustained rebound in which the Government can put its faith for generous earnings, after the previous scary dip to just US$38. No one knows if Trinidad and Tobago itself is sufficiently out of the woods, economically, to be able to offer largesse to its neighbours.
Mr Manning also gave few details in his proposal of more autonomy for Tobago, and the country needs to know exactly what he means. We need to know more about other remarks concerning the constitution. For example he said, the independence of the Judiciary has to be respected, but the line of demarcation (with the Executive?) is to be settled once and for all. And again, “the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions needs to be clarified.” And yet again, the service commissions are not relevant in the reality of today.
In our view Mr Manning’s speech seemed to consist of a whole lot of smoke and mirrors that conceals more than it reveals about where Trinidad and Tobago now stands politically and constitutionally.