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No longer blinded by our eyes

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
December 04, 2016

The People's National Movement (PNM) ought to chill; ask what it is doing wrong; recharge its battery; and then take it from there. It lost the local government election and people are losing confidence in its leadership.

This is one situation in which loud talking and grand charging are unlikely to solve the problem at hand. The situation calls for calm, cool and reflective thinking. The election results are clear: The PNM won seven corporations (down from eight in the last elections); the United National Congress (UNC) won six. The PNM and UNC received four seats each in Sangre Grande. PNM lost about 12 seats to the UNC.

The popular vote is more telling. In 2013, PNM received 188,383 votes; UNC 122,346. In 2016, PNM received 174,754 votes; UNC 180,758. UNC increased its votes by 58,412 or 47.4 per cent; PNM votes decreased by 13,629 or 7.53 per cent. Conclusion: UNC supporters were enthusiastic about their party; PNM supporters were indifferent.

In 2013 PNM supporters were raring to get rid of UNC. On Monday they sent PNM leadership a message. They voted with their feet. They rejected the PNM Government attitude toward them. This is not a good sign for the PNM.

On election night the Prime Minister said he was "very pleased with the results. It was a handsome victory for which we're grateful". He should not be pleased with the results. He should be grateful the PNM did not do worse.

In August I wrote: "I do not know where my party is going but I know it is not performing at its inspiring best. At a time when there is much unrest in the island; when the society is plagued by a spate of killing, the least the Government can do is to demonstrate it understands the pain the people are undergoing."

I continued: "The PNM is in danger of going backward if it cannot inspire a passion for justice, self-responsibility, and national pride in its citizens. Must the party wait until it finds itself in hot water, like the unpretentious tea bag, before it assumes its leadership role in the society?"

Today, the Government is in even hotter water; a condition the election results confirm. Somewhere it took a wrong turn. Last week I outlined some of the Government's achievements. I also urged them to attend to the problems of black people who "are being shortchanged".

Previously, I noted the Government was not paying sufficient attention to its own optics. I wrote, "Stuart Young is the new poster boy. I know nothing about his or the AG's political experience or philosophy, but I wonder how do Marlene McDonald, Camille Robinson-Regis, Fitzgerald Hinds and other PNM stalwarts feel about all of this?"

Recently Rohan Sinanan was given the Ministry of Works and Transport; Kazim Hosein, Rural Development and Local Government; and Franklin Khan was made Minister of Energy. Colm Imbert is the Finance Minister; Faris Al-Rawi is the Attorney General, and Stuart Young is a Minister in the Ministry of the AG's office.

With the exception of Hosein, the aforementioned are the most visible members of the Government and the party. No one else really seems to matter. In his inaugural address to the PNM on January 15, 1956, Dr Williams declared the PNM to be "a convention of all and for all, a mobilisation of all the forces in the community". Today, reasonable members are asking: where is the black presence within this convention and what role are its members playing in the governance of the country?

During the election campaign Prime Minister Rowley asked why the UNC focused so much on Imbert. Could it be that they see what the PM does not see. Could it be, that in the minds of UNC and PNM members, Imbert has usurped Rowley's position thereby relegating blackness to invisibility within the present spectrum of Government?

Might it be that party members reject their role as suppliers of slave labour for the party elites—doing the bull work while the spoils are distributed to those who are wealthier and better positioned?

Might it be that blacks do not see themselves as being fully represented at the table of equals? Can it be that blacks do not believe their interests are being properly represented in ways they think they should be at the governmental level?

The PNM will see what it wants to see. It may even want to lie to itself, but as the English poet Robert Brooke advised one should not aspire to voluntary blindness. He wrote: "Learn all we lacked before; hear, know, and say/ What this tumultuous body now denies;/ And feel, who have laid our groping hands away;/And see, no longer blinded by our eyes."

This local election was a referendum on the PNM leadership. Gregory Taylor, a Sangre Grande resident, puts it best: "After a year in office, people are fed up with the PNM." He seems to ask: how much longer, must we "be blinded by our eyes"?

Prof Cudjoe's e-mail address is He can be reached at @ProfessorCudjoe.

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