Using loud tones and at times almost shouting, the PNM political leader chose the forum of the 41st Annual Conference of the PNM’s Women’s League to deal with several pertinent national issues. He lambasted those who have argued that Deane, a former chairman of the Integrity Commission, should not chair the Commission because of his role in the investigation of Keith Rowley.
“If you want to run the country, win an election,” was how the Prime Minister responded to these concerns yesterday at the St John’s Ambulance Hall, Woodbrook. Attendance at the annual event seem slightly lower than last year which saw 741 registered participants. This year there were around 660 registered participants, according to a party official. “To govern this country, you have to be firm,” Manning added, saying that “we have no shortage of naysayers in Trinidad and Tobago”.
Manning hit out at the media for its reporting of last Friday’s parliamentary sitting at which he announced the commission of inquiry. He said the media failed to report that the decision to appoint the commission of inquiry was made by Cabinet. He denied that he had “set up” Attorney General Bridgid Annisette-George, by having her defend the Government’s previous decision to simply appoint a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee to investigate Udecott, only to then announce a commission of inquiry.
Manning said the Cabinet met on Friday morning, and what transpired on Friday was part of a strategy. He noted that he too defended JSCs on Friday alongside Annisette-George, as well as Colm Imbert, the Works and Transport Minister.
Manning said the media “conveniently forgot to recognise” that “the Prime Minister... was talking on the authority of the Cabinet”.
“It is a piece of information that you should not ignore,” Manning said. “They wrong, they wrong my friends.”
Manning also said Cabinet “agreed” on the appointment of a JSC on Friday morning. He did not explain why Cabinet opted to defend JSCs at Friday’s sitting, if the intention was to appoint a commission of inquiry.
Yesterday’s address was heated and reminiscent of election campaign speeches, a clear sign that the PNM is gearing up for its annual convention next month which will see all executive posts up for grabs.
Manning sat at the head table next to Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira, who delivered a speech extolling the importance of economically rewarding women who stay at home to raise their families. However Manning was a full three places away from his wife Hazel, the Local Government Minister. At one stage the Prime Minister noted that there were “women galore” at yesterday’s event and joked: “You know, I like women. Interpret that as you want.”
For a second year in a row Manning hinted of his intention to drive through far-reaching constitutional reforms as part of a larger party vision.
The PNM political leader repeated what he has said at several recent events, including a PNM breakfast meeting on May 12 and an address at the recently concluded Economist Conference on May 20. Once more he placed his Government’s Vision 2020 in the context of the achievements of the PNM. He specifically defended Vision 2020 as only the fourth such initiative in the party’s history, harking back to the ideals of PNM icon Eric Williams.