Manning rose during debate of the Prisons (Amendment) Bill to deliver a three-minute speech during which he said nothing about the bill, instead offering congratulations to Persad-Bissessar, newly elected chairman Jack Warner and newly elected deputy political leader Roodal Moonilal.
“Mr Speaker, I rise to make a very brief intervention in this debate,” he said. “I (want) to congratulate the very distinguished member for Siparia on her election to the position as the political leader of her political party and to ascending to the ranks of political leadership in the country, Mr Speaker, and to wish her well in her future endeavours,” he said.
He spread the joy around further adding, “I’d like to congratulate the Member for Chaguanas West (Jack Warner) on attaining the exalted office of chairman of his own political organisation and to wish him well.”
“I would also like to congratulate the member for Oropouche East (Roodal Moonilal) who distinguished himself on being the lone survivor,” he also said. Moonilal was the only candidate on Couva North MP Basdeo Panday’s slate for Sunday’s internal polls to win a post, that of deputy political leader. “He has done very well,” Manning said.
But for Basdeo Panday, Manning had this to say, “to my good friend the member for Couva North, I think that he has made a significant contribution to the country’s development.” He added, intriguingly, “At some appropriate time, I hope that the Parliament (would) recognise it.”
Amidst desk-thumping in his honour from Government and Opposition benches, Panday interjected, “I do not intend to die just yet.”
Manning replied, “I was very careful in my choice of words Mr Speaker not to suggest that my friend was dead, dying or in any stage that was suggesting that he was not in full control of all his faculties.”
The Prime Minister then waxed lyrical: “The political life of the country is not static and never will be and time marches on and I have no doubt that in years to come similar comments might well be made about me. Time marches on. Time marches on, Mr Speaker, and it is the hallmark of a civilised Parliament and a civilised country that we recognise contributions regardless of the political perspective from which we come.”
Manning’s comments were the high point of a sitting which saw Persad-Bissessar chat with several of the defeated candidates in Sunday’s polls. For example, she thumped her desk in support of Caroni East MP Tim Gopeesingh and even of Panday’s brother Princes Town North MP Subhas Panday. Of Manning’s comments, Subhas later jokingly remarked, “I would like to congratulate the Prime Minister for his incisive contribution. He focused on every section and every clause of the bill.”