Stating that the trouble is caused, not by what you do, but by what you say, Manning made an appeal to thousands of supporters at Hilo Carpark in St Augustine: “Cut out the dotish (race) talk!”
Speaking mere hours after naming the November 5 election date, the PM charged that as the election campaign progressed, persons in the Opposition would get “desperate” and would “fall back on the race card” and “appeal to the baser instincts of citizens” in order to maintain their political space. But Manning urged the supporters to resist any such attempts, citing Scripture: “How good it is for brethen to dwell together in unity.”
Putting it all in the context of his 2020 Vision for a society not consumed with race, Manning claimed that the country had progressed to the point where people could judge a political party on the basis of its merits, track record, programmes and credibility. “And if you do that, then you have no choice but to vote for the PNM,” he said.
Manning who said that the first thing he normally observed at a public meeting was the composition of the audience, stated: “You do not know what joy it brings to my heart to see in a PNM audience East Indian brothers and sisters in large numbers. You do not know what joy it brings to my heart to look in a PNM audience and see people of all races and classes.”
Noting that the PNM had never won an election solely on African support, the Prime Minister contended that more and more people who traditionally had not been associated with the PNM were finding the party attractive.
Manning also told his audience that the turmoil taking place within the party arose because the PNM wanted to ensure that in the candidate selection process there were people of competence who could be the future leaders of the party and country. “It is all part of change and it is all designed to ensure that when the PNM presents a slate of candidates to the electorate, it is not the tired old faces presented by the COPse and others in opposition. He said the PNM wanted to present a mix of old and new, all guaranteed to ensure that the party continued to be great and to prevail.
While the PM looked inward, it was Housing Minister Dr Keith Rowley who focused heavily on the alleged misdeeds of the UNC, whipping up the crowd into a frenzy in the process. Rowley named former senators during the 1995-2001 period who took subsidised government housing for themselves, when it was designed for poor people.
“We had to give (name called) back his money and say ‘yuh not getting any house.’
In fact we had to get a crane to pull out (name called) from the Government house! That is how they saw the housing programme,” he said, getting a roar of approval from the crowd. “Under the PNM, the houses are for you, the people who are in need!” Rowley thundered, to loud cheers.
Continuing his stinging criticism of UNC corruption, Rowley also revealed that a particular contractor who submitted a balance of payment bill for $14 million for refurbishing a sewer treatment plant in Couva North, disappeared without collecting one cent after he (Rowley) started asking questions. Saying that the matter occurred shortly after he assumed the Planning and Development portfolio, Rowley said: “I started wondering how much sewage it have in Couva North, that the balance on a job could be $14 million. So I started to ask questions and I couldn’t get the appropriate answers. I told my Permanent Secretary not to pay until we were satisfied. And I never heard anything about that (bill) again. Now I want to ask you which contractor in the world could have been properly owed $14 million and being told ‘I am not paying you’ and he never comes back. By contrast, he said, the UNC was unable to cite one instance of corruption in the billion dollar housing programme managed by the PNM, in which over 100 contractors were involved. Rowley said he could not believe that the country was on the verge of an election and the UNC, a party which had been in government for six years and which was seeking to get back into office, could not decide who the leader of the party was.
“It is all kind of bargain here, bargain there, give me that, take that, come here, go there, you here, she there. And they want to run your billion dollar affairs,” he said, causing his audience to dance with delight at his rhetoric. “Imagine one of them who want to run your affairs is a certain Jack Warner,” he said. “Oh Lord!” the crowd shouted in anticipation. “I want to send a message to a Jack tonight,” Rowley said. “Tell him! Tell him!” the enthusiastic crowd urged. “I have a ticket home in a drawer. I was supposed to be in the Stadium in 1989.
I didn’t get in! Jack, I want a refund for meh ticket!” he thundered, referring to the November 1989 fiasco. The crowd was wild with laughter. But Rowley wasn’t finished.
“And of course there is my friend the old lion.
You could imagine the old lion laying all knotted around the Cabinet table. And knock, knock, knock,” Rowley said, rapping his knuckles against the podium. “I am officer James Henry of Woodbrook Police Station,” Rowley said, putting on his sternest voice.
“I have come to arrest. Oh God! Oh God!” Rowley cried with feigned disbelief, as the crowd soaked up the image.
The Diego Martin West firebrand said that was what happened when a Government operates with the credo “my wife could accept a million dollars from a man, I don’t know, or may know...It don’t matter how you get it, it don’t matter who give it to you, just take it.”
Senator Christine Kangaloo, the Pointe-a-Pierre candidate, in a well received speech also gave a lot of political bois.