GUEST COLUMN: T&T recollections
My column on Basdeo Panday which was recently published seems to have stirred up some interest, particularly when I revealed that the election result of 1986 was called by the team I headed.As was the 1991 election and a number of following elections except in one case, our predictions turned out to be accurate.Since the column on Panday it has been suggested I stay on the theme and devote this week’s column to sharing a number of thoughts with you as it relates to Trinidad and Tobago, including election campaigns I have been following there.The significant political defeat of the PNM in ’86 left that party with just three seats in parliament but provided an opportunity for a number of people, including Lenny Saith, who perhaps is at the level where he should be considered an icon of the PNM, to focus on a younger Patrick Manning who among his other claims to fame, is a grandson of proud Barbadians. (I believe from the parish of St Thomas.)And, taking advantage of the factions which appeared in the NAR government as early as 1987, Patrick Manning emerged as the leader and won the elections in 1991 as was predicted.I remember understandably that within a day or two of the results being out, I was summonsed to meet with the new Prime Minister and did. The location we met at in Port of Spain was, I believe, the historic headquarters of the PNM and the invitation to meet was in sufficient time for me to make Piarco Airport to return to Barbados for the Christmas period. Of course, the newly elected prime minister, who was saying thank you to his constituents in the South of Trinidad arrived for the meeting later than scheduled. We met and I was very pleased with his clearly articulated views about the relationship between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.When I said goodbye there was an issue whether I could make it to Piarco for my flight. On the PM’s instruction we had two motorcycle escorts on the special highway to the airport.For reasons I don’t understand today we arrived at the airport on time and left the police escort behind us.I was very pleased with the relationship between the Manning government and Barbados.Let us go back in the past and recognise icons like Eric Williams and Errol Barrow who were among a small cadre of leaders who saw the Caribbean as one family, a viewpoint that I share.We have a lot in common but what I have observed over the years is that each Caribbean country has its own unique personality, its own rhythm.Trinidad and Tobago of all the Caribbean countries has its own way of life and in this connection, the way they deal with their elections is a good opportunity to see the uniqueness of that country – they will compete right down to the wire and within 24 hours afterwards they return to that rhythm of life. I am confident that this spirit will be maintained.This general election is going to create challenges that both political groups must face.At the end of the day, all groups must work to end the ethnic divide and recognise that the uniqueness of our countries suggests that we must always remain brothers and sisters.I am giving serious consideration to attempting to predict the outcome of the upcoming General Election but I haven’t made up my mind yet.• Frank da Silva is a member of the Democratic Labour party and a former high commissioner.