Agonies of Golding and Manning
Analysis by Rickey Singh THE POLITICAL agonies of the Prime Ministers of Jamaica (Bruce Golding) and Trinidad and Tobago (Patrick Manning) appear to be worsening and raising serious questions about their future as leaders of government in the Caribbean Community.At the time of writing, Golding was locked in the latest of a series of crisis consultations with various arms of his ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) as to whether he should bow to increasing demands from the parliamentary opposition, business and civic organisations to quit as Prime Minister.Golding’s recent self-confessed sin that is traumatising Jamaica was that he had personally misled the people of Jamaica by an earlier denial of his involvement in recruiting a United States law firm to engage in lobbying work to help avoid the requested extradition by US authorities of an alleged major dealer in narco-trafficking and gun-running – Christopher “Dudus” Coke, widely known to be an activist JLP supporter. On the other hand, across in Trinidad and Tobago, Manning’s People’s National Movement has been pushed on the defensive to deny his involvement in highly controversial expenditures of state funds linked to a church, whose female pastor he had publicly idenfitied as his “spiritual adviser”. In addition to relevant documents on claimed misuse of state land and funds linked to the construction of the Church Of The Lighthouse Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the leader of the main opposition United National Congress, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has now raised a series of questionable expenditures incurred on the Prime Minister’s new official residence and diplomatic centre through the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDECOTT).Persad-Bissessar, who is the designated prime ministerial candidate for a “people’s partnership” coalition for change, has disclosed that all relevant documents were to be made available this week to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the acting Police Commissioner to investigate “criminal wrongdoings” in accordance with the country’s anti-corruption law.With just one week to go before next Monday’s vote, Manning’s 31-month old administration has been effectively driven on the backfoot to defend mounting allegations of poor governance.For his part, Golding’s 33-month-old administration is faced with a survival dilemma that some regional constitutional experts think leave him with the choice of either advising the Governor General to dissolve parliament, or to resign.Consistent with established norms of the Westminster-style multi-party democracy to which governing and oppposition parties in CARICOM generally subscribe, a head of government who confesses giving false information on a matter of grave national importance – as done by Golding – can expect to face a no-confidence motion, having damaged his personal credibility and that of his administration.In Trinidad and Tobago, where Manning felt obliged to abandon – even before reaching mid-term – a five-year mandate won in an electoral landslide in November 2007, his political mantra for the May 24 poll is that the anti-PNM coalition is “doomed to failure”, but indications point to the contrary.In his anxiety to woo support for his prediction about the longevity of a UNC/Congress of People (COP) “partnership” in government, Manning has gone even further by forecasting the collapse, in one year, of Britain’s first coalition government since World War II.In contrast, Persad-Bissessar, the first woman to head a major party in Trinidad and Tobago, has been wooing supporters with her claim that the British Prime Minister David Cameron-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats had “gone the way set by us”.However, such enthusiasm must contend with harsh reality; notably that the perceived popular surge towards her coalition force could run into trouble with a simplistic assumption that the massive electoral defeat suffered in 1986 by Manning when he called a snap general election could be repeated in 2010. Her literal tearing up of the PNM’s manifesto last week, within days of its official release, may have been an entertaining act for emotional and aggressive advocates of “time for change”, but it was hardly an intellectual response. And in the absence of its own manifesto up to the time of writing, the “people’s partnership” crusade has to avoid undermining its own credibility in what it offers for “change”.