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PNM, UNC labouring with swing votes

Published: 
Saturday, June 23, 2018

The PNM was greatly outnumbered outside of Parliament yesterday.

Only eight of PNM’s Point Fortin members were present to support their MP, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, in the Opposition UNC’s no-confidence motion debate concerning him.

The eight stood to one side, crowded out by a large gathering of citizens protesting T&T’s murders.

“Why (Government MPs) asking us what party we from?” asked one woman who addressed strong concerns to Dillon who – after greeting his eight supporters – was urged to go over to the crowd.

Inside, UNC MP Rodney Charles, piloting the motion against Dillon, gave a delivery not dissimilar to some featuring at Tuesday’s Labour Day observances.

“Failure! Failure! Failure!...” he ticked off. “Plans - all coming soon, but like the Galleon’s Passage they can’t arrive!”

It was left to PNM’s Stuart Young to defend Dillon. Charles’ scoring, however, was the second set of “Fail Grades” for Government this week. Tuesday’s Labour Day platform could easily have been mistaken for an Opposition meeting – such were the criticisms also.

OWTU jefe Ancel Roget accurately assessed T&T’s temperature following loss of quality of life: Plain Scared.

His order to observe PNM’s September 7 election anniversary as a day of “rest and reflection” – possible off day – was geared to telegraph the sector’s importance. As if Government, heading into elections, doesn’t know.

Unions’ clinical assessment and warning - reinforced with certain positive references to the former administration - from a sector representing significant votes, confirmed workers haven’t bought into PNM’s good-news “economic turnaround” push.

Labour’s critique - pointedly reminding PNM to keep promises - has also saved some unions’ face, as several were perceived as supporting Government. OWTU particularly would have been insistent since members await Petrotrin restructuring and consequences, a situation where Government decisions will increasingly require political considerations the longer they take, along the election road.

That labour’s voice was heard, as borne out by subsequent statements from some ministers on promises kept. It was particularly confirmed in Thursday’s announcement from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s office about last night’s “Conversations” meeting with him and ministers.

Such forums have arisen when Government felt compelled to connect with base and/or deal with specific issues. PNM officials indicated the event was planned weeks before, apparently to reply to anticipated Labour Day reprimands.

Rowley was expected to reset the local landscape last night: explain, assure, assuage. (Internationally, he’s won his tiff with the outgoing UN resident Co-ordinator (on Venezuelan repatriation issues), but the US’ concerns on T&T’s “Isis recruits” and Venezuela are front and centre.)

Last night’s “Conversations” venue – Mt Hope – verged enough on the Barataria area to complement PNM campaigning for the July 16 by-election there and in Belmont East.

Rowley’s meeting followed Monday’s UNC platform where some boasted of “having 98 per cent of Mohammedville under control” for the by-election. Ex-PNM deputy leader Nafeesa Mohammed reinforced perception, saying residents were hurt” by the Carnival plot searches.

Political impact of the searches – and recent verbal flubs by Rowley – has prompted PNM and UNC to increase outreach to the Muslim community.

Rowley’s Eid visit to the San Fernando mosque may not have gone as - photographically - well as expected. But his invitation to Asja’s Eid June 30 dinner at Centrepoint Mall is intact, ASJA confirmed.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Eid visit to El Socorro’s Nur e Islam mosque also assisted UNC election boasts. The UNC is shifting profile from its PP façade which instituted the 2011 state of emergency. At Wednesday’s Parliament, MP Prakash Ramadhar stressed police had advised PP to undertake the SoE.

While Government’s anti-terrorism bill upset some Muslims, after Wednesday’s debate Muslims of T&T’s Imtiaz Mohammed said, “We’re happy at changes in areas we spoke about. The Opposition also sought changes we’d recommended.”

Confident PNM campaign officials said yesterday, “It’s only a matter of by how much we’ll win Belmont East. Barataria we’ll retake. Our polls three weeks ago showed people see crime as the number one problem. But elections are about numbers and we know our voters by name and street. We’ll bring them out.”

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