I do not make these charges lightly, and I am fully aware that the PP government is, it its own way, aiding and abetting in the confusion by their inability to conform to a semblance of consensus and by some of the choices and statements they have made.
But, as I have said before in this column, nothing which has been done, or said, or left undone or unsaid, is worthy of the constant, almost hysterical torrent of criticisms which have been poured upon this government. I am not against criticism, but by any standard the current government is receiving a level of attack disproportionate to their failings and perceived failings. And indeed, even sections of the media are being swept up in the frenzy. The matter of the recent opinion polls, which showed a drop in the Prime Minister’s, and the government’s popularity, were wrongly described by the media as showing that Kamla and her government were “unpopular”. And the polls never showed that.
Overall, she was more “popular” than “unpopular”, but the media gave the impression, to all those who do not read beyond the headlines (and they are many!), that the government was now an unpopular one.
The issues being faced by this government on the labour front were inherited from the PNM, which, while in office did absolutely nothing to advance the negotiations with the PSA or the Police Service. While they had put all government-related trade union negotiations on hold, they were bleeding down the treasury with ridiculous, non-essential, wasteful and useless buildings. It was the PNM which had blithely announced that they were “sending home” all of Inland Revenue, Customs, and other people in the Ministry of Finance, to create their “Revenue Authority”. It was the PNM who had set about to impose huge Land and Buildings Tax increases upon the citizens.
And yet it is the PNM now crying “pay the people”! It is the PNM which, in the face of the current illegal sick-outs among the police service, claimed they had “approved” the pay increases for the service. That claim, untrue as it is, now resonates among the public as “truth”. And, with regard to the police sick-outs, where was the “loyal opposition” of the country of Trinidad and Tobago? Instead of condemning the action, and calling—as it was their duty to call—for the police to return to work, the PNM in the Senate blamed the PP government for the police action!
Recent testimony in the July 1990 Commission of Enquiry described the hatred which the police at the time harboured against Robinson and the NAR. That hatred had been carefully fostered by the PNM in the years 1987 through 1990. In September 1987 I wrote a column (Newsday was not born yet) in which I described how the PNM had consciously demitted office in order to blame the new government for the problems which would sweep the country, problems caused by PNM mismanagement, incompetence and corruption. The “destabilisation” plan managed to blame the NAR for all of the evils the PNM had left in their wake, and the attempted coup of July 1990 was the result, encouraged, if not aided and abetted by the PNM. But let us leave that for Sir David Simmons and his enquiry to develop.
I have charged the PNM and Patrick Manning with doing the same thing in 2010. At first I thought Manning had gone mad when he called that election, but when I realised the enormity of his governance failures (Clico, Udecott, his Church, the debts, and his sponsorship of crime via URP), I realised that it was 1986 again, and he was abandoning the ship he had wrecked, while blaming those who were left to keep it afloat.
Why was this not so evident when the UNC won the 1995 elections? Because Manning actually thought he would have won that election, so the PNM had no destabilisation plan at hand. When he decided to demit office in 2010, remember how much he claimed that he “had learned from the 1995 experience…”? He knew he was stepping away from the responsibility he had wrought. And the plan, which is now unfolding before us, was already formulated.
Trinidad and Tobago is now under Storm Watch, and we would do well to heed those clouds on the horizon.