Indeed, current thinking suggests that the UNC is not prepared to surrender to the COP any of the 15 seats it holds in the House of Representatives which it won in the November 5, 2007 general election.
Acting Political Leader of the COP, Wendy Lee Yuen, clearly recognising this, is on record as stating she believed the sensible thing would be for the COP to contest the seats in which it placed second to the PNM in the last general election.
Despite no clear sign of rapprochement between the UNC and the breakaway COP, which fought against it in 2007, if, however, the PNM hopes to continue in power after the next general election, constitutionally due in November, 2012, Patrick Manning will have to step down as Prime Minister and PNM Political Leader.
For this to be meaningful it will have to be done shortly in order to provide any new political leader with enough time to rebrand the PNM and mobilise members and supporters of the Party for the crucial battle which lies ahead.
The Party has been badly hurt, specifically by a great deal of what emerged during the course of the Uff Commission of Inquiry into the construction sector, particularly the power wielded by the Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott).
So great was the authority exercised by Udecott that a disturbing question has arisen. Was Udecott Government’s alternative personality?
In normal practice there are not only distinct lines of communication between Government and a State enterprise or public corporation, but that no State enterprise is permitted to act completely on its own.
Its authority is limited. While it can interpret the policy positions of a government, as it seeks to execute those positions, however, it is not expected to formulate policies which are wholly independent of Government’s.
It is not a public company as, for example, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (TTEC) or Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT). It should be pointed out, though, that for all the relative freedom of action TTEC and TSTT may enjoy this is still limited by a regulatory agency.
Udecott’s undisguised freedom of action, however, was not limited by a Government Minister, a regulatory agency or otherwise. It appeared as though Udecott was answerable to no one.
It entered into arrangements with foreign and domestic contractors even when, in the case of foreign agencies, these appeared to be virtual government to government arrangements.
In the process it committed the taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago to the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars and in the exercise of this power would hurt the image of both the Government and the ruling Party. Since under the Westminster system which Trinidad and Tobago adopted at Independence the final responsibility for Government action or inaction rests with the prime minister, then Prime Minister Manning should accept responsibility for this colossal gaffe and step down.
The image of Government, along with that of the party in power, has been so badly bruised by the Udecott episode that Manning should and must step down and make room for a new political leader and prime minister.
He will have to give the new leader, and former cabinet minister, Diego Martin West MP, Dr Keith Rowley, who from early had the courage to question the seemingly limitless power of Udecott, immediately comes to mind, enough time to regroup the party.
In this context any hint or talk at this stage by Manning of an early general election is unamusingly absurd.
Udecott has squandered any chance of the PNM’s succeeding at the polls should an early general election be called.
Should there be a snap general election it would not be a question of whether a united or otherwise opposition would win, but rather by how many seats.
Will Manning, instead of declaring as he did on the night of the PNM’s 26-15 victory over the UNC on November 5, 2007 that “This is God’s victory,” solemnly announce: “This is God’s defeat?”
Meanwhile, many persons continue to have uncomfortable reservations about the silence of the UNC on the issue of the party’s long-standing major plank on constitutional reform — Proportional Representation.
This is disturbing, as, should the UNC win the next general election with the required three-fourths majority necessary to effect this change to the Constitution it could be in office indefinitely. This would be an unsettling situation, perhaps far worse than the trauma of Udecott.