Now, that isn’t to say that the government is fallen. Oh, far from it. Even without the Trojan Horse, more commonly known as the COP the UNC would still be firmly entrenched in Government. And the MSJ didn’t actually have a Parliamentary seat because Errol McLeod (who was the MSJ’s Political Leader, and resigned earlier this year, with David Abdullah taking over the helm) ran on a UNC ticket, and he knows precisely where he eating ah food and won’t be bad mouthing Kamla anytime soon. The MSJ had one senator in the upper house of the Parliament, David Abdullah. And so you are going to hear the supporters of the UNC and COP now derogate and denigrate the MSJ, and call them useless and marginalise them and their contribution to the coalition winning, and you are also going to hear them say that Labour was always in the PNM back pocket anyway…..And that is a bad sign for any coalition. Abdullah’s comments came at around 1pm today and by about 5pm the PM had sent out a response that made the rounds on all the blogs, groups and FB political sites.
People’s reactions fell easily into three categories: outright rejoicing over the cracks in the coalition, apathy over this move making any difference to the larger problems we face with the politics, and vicious and snide derogation of the MSJ as a minor and useless party.
Yet for me the turn of events are significant, if only because historically the PPG seems to be reliving the experience of the NAR all over again. The NAR, was another coalition party that got together for the express purpose of defeating the PNM….indeed every coalition we have had in Trinidad existed for the sole purpose of unseating the PNM….and after unseating their purpose always seemed at odds with actual development of the country….but I digress. The NAR came together not as a loose coalition like the PP, but an actual political party. Within the first year of the coalition there were hostilities and tensions about leadership, the role of labour, who should get which Cabinet posts, and a little over 2 years in Government the NAR experienced a split, with Panday, and several of his MPs leaving to form the Caucus for Love Unity and Brotherhood…aka CLUB 88…which eventually became the UNC!
The UNC has spawned at least two spin-off parties, the short-lived Hulse Bhaggan-led MUP, and the Congress of the People….interestingly enough Hulsie Bhaggan is now a COP member…..so it seems as if within this coalition at least all the UNC/NAR chickens came home to roost in yet another coalition.
Today was not a good day for the UNC however. The party came across as unnecessarily nasty in much of its response to Abdullah’s announcement and subsequent statement.
Take a look at some of the comments that circulated in Jahaji Desi today:
Nikhil Kanhai It is about time. MSJ served no purpose in pp gov. The gov. is better off without them. We must remember that Errol McLeod fought the Pointe a Pierre seat under a UNC ticket. Let Roget and David go and try to win a seat by themselves!! I ask where was Labour’s voice for the 10yrs that PNM ruled? It was and still is in the back pockets of the PNM. How can you make a difference from the outside??
Antonio Starboi Bocas who really cares abt the MSJ? its not like they were ever going to win any seats or help pull otes…there were ONLY there bc of tokenism…..they brought nothing to the table and their leaving will take away nothing from the table….
David has informed me of the decision by the MSJ to withdraw from the People Partnership government and I am in receipt of his letter of resignation from the Senate. I respect the decision of the MSJ and David so to do.
I am compelled to tell you that the list of demands made by David over the past few months were always impossible, unreasonable and reckless. It seems David’s entrance into Government never allowed him the advantage of a national perspective. He remained trapped in isolationist thinking. You cannot negotiate Governance like a Labour Union leader representing the interest of only one group. In Government your responsibility is larger than that; it seems not everyone can make the shift. As for David’s accusations they are vacuous and without a shred of evidence. We have established a more transparent and accountable Government than any other before. David’s comments and criticism as a parting shot fired from the gun of a new political aspirant is an ambitious quest for power.
We do take this opportunity to thank him for his service and wish him all the best.
We will continue with our labour agenda regardless of the absence of the MSJ. Minister Errol Mac Leod whose life long dedication to the struggle of the labour movement can never be challenged, and he remains as a huge resource within the Peoples Partnership Government.
So in a sense, the government can be strengthened by David’s predictable but timely departure.
Take a minute to note Kamla’s diction. She never once refers to Abdullah by his last name or title. Any PR or Communications Advisor worth his or her salt should have told the PM that the note she needed to strike was one of graceful resignation. Her tone should have said the MSJ is free to disagree and move on, it’s a pity we couldn’t see eye to eye, thanks for the assistance you gave us for the two-year period, all the best. Instead we get a response that is graceless, rude, and downright inappropriate! Since the gold Louis Vuitton shoes I have been saying that vulgar, inapropriate behaviour is what characterises this Government. Kamla and her supporters toting….and it’s really not a good look. I mean seriously…if the MSJ so inconsequential….why all the long faces and bitter words.
Abdullah for his part, in carefully couched language, hit the PPG some stinging blows. And it looks like this week, what with Labour Day Marches on Tuesday, and the Teacher’s protest on Friday is going to be a hot week!
Take in Abdullah’s speech:
STATEMENT BY THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE AND ACTIVISTS COUNCIL (MSJ)
Just under a month ago I offered, on behalf of the Movement for Social Justice, a detailed analysis of the state of governance in Trinidad and Tobago as we approach our nation’s Fiftieth Anniversary of Independence. Very many citizens from all walks of life have expressed to my MSJ colleagues and I that this has been the most important political statement since the May 24th 2010 General Elections.
There can be no doubt that our statement generated a tremendous amount of interest; shook up the political status quo and confounded the armchair critics who couldn’t understand how a political party that was part of a coalition government could risk its position “in the corridors of power” by speaking truth to that power. I wish to thank all those citizens who have said that they support what the MSJ has done and what we stand for.
Your comments have confirmed what we believe – that the majority of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago yearn for the day when we have good government in our land: good government that takes into consideration and seeks the well-being of every citizen regardless of race, religion, age, gender, party affiliation or geographical residence. Such good government is what will lead to the greater happiness of all; the reduction in the feelings of dispossession, disenfranchisement, hopelessness, cynicism, exclusion and even anger that are all too prevalent throughout the society.
As is well known the MSJ had two Public Forums last weekend at which we analysed the state of governance and the economy. We thank those individual citizens and representatives of civil society: NGOs’ and CBO’s for participating in those Forums and enriching the discussions. One thing which emerged very clearly from those Forums was that the achievement of good government is itself predicated on the attainment of good governance.
What this means is that the most important step towards resolving the many problems in our society is the creation of new governance arrangements; arrangements that would enable citizens to truly participate in decision-making in the country and thus actually feel that they belong, because they have a sense of ownership of this land of ours. This is what will enable us to build this nation.
In our performance appraisal of the Partnership Government we made the point that the majority of citizens believed that in the Partnership they saw the very real possibility of new governance being created. This belief was based by both the commitments that we made in the Fyzabad Declaration and the Manifesto and the construct of the coalition. However, this expectation of change has been replaced by a sense of disappointment and cynicism as citizens see that what has happened is that the faces of those in charge have changed while the old system of governance created and maintained by the PNM over four decades has remained essentially intact.
It was our intention that by making a strong statement on the issue of governance, we could as a member of the coalition catalyse our colleagues in government to focus their attention on the key issues facing the country and begin to take appropriate action. We believed that we could not just offer this critique behind closed doors since it is really a matter of national importance. Moreover, in so doing we were keeping faith with the tenets of the policies and principles of the Partnership as enunciated in the Fyzabad Declaration and Manifesto.
To demonstrate that we were serious about the issues that we placed on the national agenda we removed MSJ members on state boards other than the tri-partite boards, and also did not attend or participate in the second anniversary rallies, which we deemed to be inappropriate. Indeed, certainly the rally in Trinidad was organized no differently from the way the PNM organised while in government as CEPEP and URP workers were instructed to attend or face the possible loss of their livelihood. This is but one manifestation that our message of the need to change governance was continuing to fall on deaf ears.
Then too was the response by leading members of the government. One tried to intimidate us into “toeing the line”; yet another sought to make a joke out of what is really a very serious issue. One would have thought that the Leaders of the Partnership would have met with some urgency. This has not happened, notwithstanding the fact that the Political Leader of the COP also publicly spoke of the need for the Partnership to address major issues. The Political Leader of the UNC acknowledged that something has to be done, but has taken the approach of using her constitutional power as Prime Minister to “realign the Cabinet; review the state boards and offer the country a blueprint for national development”.
This is really a reinforcement of the old system of governance where the Prime Minister decides. It flies in the face of the decision of the Political Leaders of the Partnership that “the Leaders recognize the importance of this forum for the discussion and resolution of national policy issues”. This decision was publicly stated not once, but twice by the Leaders. Yet, in the face of it the Prime Minister subsequently announced – without any discussion with the Leaders – the decision that the government would abolish civil appeals to the Privy Council.
There has been nothing since the last meeting of Leaders on May 8th, nor anything since the MSJ statement of May 21st, to suggest that the Partnership government is serious about changing the governance of the country.
This then poses a serious conundrum for the MSJ. Can we as a political party that has a vision for Trinidad and Tobago that is rooted in our philosophy of social justice, peace, equity and sustainable livelihoods for all co-exist comfortably in the coalition which is the Peoples Partnership? We say this because the very achievement of social justice, peace, equity and sustainable livelihoods for all is itself only going to become a reality if there is good government. And, as we have said, good government will itself only flourish if there is good governance.
We joined the Partnership because of two primary reasons. The country needed to get rid of the Patrick Manning PNM government as it was engaged in the worst possible governance; and secondly because we felt that the Partnership, while far from perfect, offered the possibility of beginning to effect some progressive changes in governance. The first objective has been accomplished. The second objective now seems to be thwarted, notwithstanding our best efforts, by powerful elements in the Partnership who quite frankly are very happy with the existing system once they are in charge. For them it is not about changing the system of governance but rather changing faces because it is “we time now”. We do not see this approach to politics and governance being altered in the near future.
It is in this context that the National Executive and Activists Council of the Movement for Social Justice have decided that our Party will remove itself from the Peoples Partnership coalition of political parties. As a consequence of this the MSJ will not be in the government of Trinidad and Tobago and therefore I will be tendering my resignation as a Senator to the Prime Minister.
We have not taken this decision lightly or easily. We recognize that we have a responsibility to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago as we were an integral part of the Partnership that campaigned in 2010 and asked you to vote for the Partnership to be your government. We do not regret that decision. It was the right thing to do at that time. As it is the right thing for us to now withdraw from the Partnership.
We are well aware of all of the concerns and fears even, that our decision may generate. Some may feel that we are opening the door to a return of the PNM. That we certainly do not wish to see happen. They have had more than their fair share of opportunity and the policies that they implemented made a mess of things as they were largely responsible for the failed system of governance in the country. But the fear of a return of the PNM must be replaced by a confidence that we can, indeed must, move above and beyond the politics of that party. To do otherwise is to say that we are forever doomed to bad government.
Some may feel that we are afraid to shoulder the responsibilities of government. That too is not true. Indeed, we are prepared to offer a vision and a programme for good government in Trinidad and Tobago. The MSJ is committed to build a mass political party, not a pressure group, that can offer itself to the electorate as a serious alternative to the traditional parties. An alternative that is non-ethnic, non-discriminatory and that pursues policies that bring about social justice as we, as a people have affirmed in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.
We debated extensively whether the building of the MSJ as a strong political party could best be done within the coalition of the Peoples Partnership or outside. Certainly, being part of government gives one access to the so-called corridors of power through which one can make representation to resolve problems affecting our members, supporters and various communities; while being out limits this possibility. On the other hand, if we want to change the system of governance we also have to start addressing the culture of dependence on access to Minister, and restore the confidence of people in their communities to articulate their interests and struggle to achieve them.
We believe that the time has come for the MSJ to paddle its own canoe. We recognize that to do this, to build a mass party that is non-ethnic and which does not depend on the largesse of either the state or powerful financiers, is not an easy task. We could have taken the line of least resistance and gone with the flow, but we have decided that if we truly believe in changing the governance of the country we must now walk the talk. We must not only speak truth to power, we must build a new centre of power around the truth!
This cannot be achieved by me simply resigning from the Senate or the MSJ leaving the Partnership. It can only happen by way of political action: the political action of the debate of ideas; political education; and of engaging with citizens where they work and where they live to understand their concerns, their needs and their aspirations; and through this process of engagement to organize people to take action in their interest.
The MSJ is committed to this process and therefore we will be intensifying the programme of walk-abouts, cottage meetings, public forums and other activities over the coming weeks. This will be the lead up to the Party’s next Congress which will take place in the last quarter of this year.
On behalf of the MSJ I invite all citizens who are unhappy about the state of governance in the country to join our Party and the efforts that we are making to bring about real change in our nation. We think that now is the time for a political party that has a clear vision of a transformed society; a party that is not based on ethnic support; a party that is going to be truly committed to good government. We offer the opportunity to you to help in this process. Whether you are a young unemployed person; a student; a housewife struggling with bills; a farmer who feels insecure about the future; a worker who is on contract and cannot get a mortgage; the professional who feels discriminated against; a self-employed or small business-person who finds it difficult to make ends meet or cannot get access to contracts; or the patriotic big business-person who is stressed out by crime and the uncertainties of the economy – we believe that you can be, indeed, we want you to be a part of the process of building the MSJ and working towards good governance.
We believe that 90% of the country in fact want the change but have not seen the way forward or have been too timid to make the first step. We have taken this first bold step forward today in the interest of those whom we believe we represent. In so doing we seek the best interest of the country as someone has to demonstrate that we can change the oft repeated credo that “politics has amorality of its own”. Trinidad and Tobago, we can, we must do better. We and our children deserve better and we in the MSJ believe that it can happen. Let us together make it happen.
Movement for Social Justice
Political Leader – MSJ
In light of David Abdullah’s comments, and if you’ve followed this blog since its inception, I’m hadrpressed to think why Kamla feels the MSJ would have stayed. What I do know is that given her response today I am tempted to think that Kamla vex David pullout before she was ready for him to do so!
De Vice Cyah Done!