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PNM, UNC – Junction checkpoint

When icon­ic mu­si­cian David Rud­der re­ceives his Or­der of the Caribbean Com­mu­ni­ty (OCC) on Wednes­day in Port-of-Spain, it will be for strides in ad­vanc­ing T&T’s mu­si­cal spec­trum, spot­light­ing ca­lyp­so and coun­try glob­al­ly and in­spir­ing gen­er­a­tions.


Such lead­er­ship is the mea­sure by which Rud­der re­ceives the gold-set OCC in­signia award­ed by Cari­com to Caribbean na­tion­als with phe­nom­e­nal lega­cy in eco­nom­ic, po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and cul­tur­al meta­mor­phoses of Caribbean so­ci­ety. Awardees re­ceived the OCC dur­ing Ju­ly’s Cari­com Sum­mit in Suri­name but Rud­der wasn’t present to re­ceive it.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

Whether Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley’s COVID re­cu­per­a­tion clears him to make Wednes­day’s pre­sen­ta­tion, and for the Au­gust 19 and 31 vis­its by Guyana and Ja­maica’s lead­ers—the first since the pan­dem­ic—re­mains ahead

A pre­sen­ta­tion by Row­ley, 72, would have al­so pos­i­tive­ly marked Wednes­day—the sec­ond an­niver­sary of Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion’s re­spec­tive po­si­tions af­ter Au­gust 10, 2020, gen­er­al elec­tions

Now in­to the midterm change-point, sec­ond term of Row­ley’s PNM Gov­ern­ment and Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar’s UNC Op­po­si­tion, dom­i­nat­ed by pan­dem­ic neg­a­tives —and con­se­quent fall­outs—has mag­ni­fied every flaw and full­ness of lead­er­ship and op­er­a­tion on both sides, as each han­dles re­spec­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. Their sec­ond year as T&T re­opened from re­stric­tions was marked by in­creased hos­tile ex­changes

Highs off­set by lows on both sides. Ef­fi­cien­cies. De­fi­cien­cies. Spin. De­lib­er­ate mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion. In­for­ma­tion ver­sus mis­in­for­ma­tion. Ac­ci­dents. De­signs. Name-call­ing. Men­tal/phys­i­cal health ac­cu­sa­tions. Clash­es with groups. Poor pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Plus, cer­tain of­fi­cials in both have ques­tions to clear

In­com­ing third year with con­tin­u­ing pan­dem­ic fall­out, plus from glob­al events, presents deep­er is­sues for both and T&T, as they ne­go­ti­ate the road in­volv­ing land­mark Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, gen­er­al and To­ba­go House of As­sem­bly polls

Amid pan­dem­ic phe­nom­e­non, lead­er­ship has as­sumed deep­er con­sid­er­a­tion

Row­ley’s straight-talk­ing, acer­bic, re­ac­tionary style, laced with col­lo­qui­alisms—in­volv­ing clash­es with some—has, how­ev­er, been the face of Gov­ern­ment, who ral­lied, coached, ca­joled, pushed and hauled T&T from COVID in­cep­tion to cur­rent guard­ed re­turn­ing to nor­mal­cy

De­spite cri­sis re­quire­ment for strong lead­er­ship, he may earn lit­tle thanks amid Gov­ern­ment’s un­pop­u­lar­i­ty. Pub­lic, stressed by pan­dem­ic hard­ship, re­stric­tions and ex­ter­nal­ly caused is­sues—51 per cent vac­ci­na­tion rate, a poll of its own. Labour rum­bling for oil wind­fall pie un­heed­ing of na­tion­al body “pains.”

Now: in­tel­li­gence about mon­ey be­ing paid by per­sons to es­ca­late gang wars

Over­whelm­ing man­age­ment de­mand re­duced Gov­ern­ment’s pub­lic out­reach; dis­con­nect was deep­ened by poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion and cer­tain de­ci­sions. How lack of pres­ence felt stands af­ter re­open­ings and im­proved out­reach is ahead

Mi­nus COVID, Row­ley’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in re­sumed Eman­ci­pa­tion cel­e­bra­tions would have as­sist­ed out­reach. His Eman­ci­pa­tion mes­sage, how­ev­er, de­tailed T&T’s chal­lenges—telegraph­ing Gov­ern­ment’s amid in­creased op­po­si­tions, in­clud­ing To­ba­go

Apart from min­is­te­r­i­al changes —some adding div­i­dends, oth­ers sub­tract­ing—Gov­ern­ment’s Bud­get is piv­otal to as­sist­ing pub­lic foot­ing. And PNM’s. Some ac­tivists are frank on feel­ing alien­at­ed from Gov­ern­ment

In PNM’s cur­rent re­or­gan­i­sa­tion/set­tle­ment phase, mo­bil­i­sa­tion re­sponse from cur­rent par­ty con­stituen­cy elec­tions, MPs’ walk­a­bouts and pos­si­ble PNM elec­tions post-Bud­get, will de­ter­mine part pre­pared­ness for LG polls. In­ter­nal dis­cus­sions on mail-in bal­lots for ex­ec­u­tive polls may be fi­nalised soon

UNC, un­en­cum­bered by coun­try man­age­ment and aid­ed by cit­i­zens’ lock­down iso­la­tion and ef­fects, called out and dogged PNM at snarling pace, on every­thing from heavy school bags to min­is­ters. Op­po­si­tion in­creased vis­i­bil­i­ty, with suc­cess on some is­sues, and cer­tain le­gal mat­ters. In­creased ag­gres­sion cor­re­spon­dent with Gov­ern­ment’s bur­dens in­clud­ed spin/mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion on some is­sues

Per­sad-Bisses­sar, 70, striv­ing for a strength­ened pro­file, adopt­ed some­times dat­ed jar­ring mil­len­ni­al speak among cor­ro­sive at­tacks, in­clud­ing on cer­tain sec­tors. This, cou­pled with con­tin­u­ing con­cerns about UNC’s team and so­lu­tion qual­i­ty, has—de­spite labour rec­on­cil­i­a­tion—alien­at­ed some. It’s hin­dered UNC’s na­tion­al ap­peal po­ten­tial be­yond math­e­mat­i­cal­ly/arrange­ment in­duced de­fault al­ter­na­tive

Whether Per­sad-Bisses­sar’s Eman­ci­pa­tion ap­pear­ance in the San Fer­nan­do Cor­po­ra­tion area washed away her “slave mas­ter” word-throw­ing re­mains ahead

Re­peat­ed uni­ty calls con­firm frag­men­ta­tion’s af­fect­ed UNC, in­clud­ing with lead­er­ship bat­tles. June’s par­ty elec­tion had the low­est vot­er turnout, con­tin­u­ing de­clin­ing trend. It was al­so Per­sad-Bisses­sar’s low­est lead­er­ship win since 2015. With UNC be­gin­ning Bud­get/cam­paign of­fer­ings, al­so ahead is which new suc­cess­ful faces emerge in the Sen­ate with mid-term

Now at the junc­tion check­point: it’s up to Gov­ern­ment, Op­po­si­tion and pub­lic to make the rest of the road en­durable. Or not