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Messages from and to PNM

Saturday, August 18, 2018

He may not be a politician any more but new Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, at yesterday’s appointment function, would have echoed the view many on the “ground” hold about the political landscape.

Less talk and more action is what Griffith promised on the anti-crime fight and that’s likely what J Public also wants from politicians.

In Griffith’s new Top Cop role, the latest murder of Dr Sinanan Lutchman has unfortunately guaranteed him the opportunity to “hit the ground running” and begin to get systems in gear.

Griffith’s Herculean task is complicated not only by the Police Service’s internal challenges plus the external landscape of organised crime, drugs, guns, and gangs, but also the level of messages emanating from the political landscape.

Government particularly came in for its fair share of messages—and doing its own messaging also—in a recent series of unforced errors.

The new job of National Security Minister Stuart Young might have benefited if his image didn’t have to now cope with perception that he might shrug off violence towards women as a “lil bit of fun.”

The latter, his view on last Sunday’s controversial PNM Family Day gorilla/sari stripping skit.

Griffith may have to work doubly hard to rebalance scales and ensure protection of women in the face of Young’s casual take on the PNM buffoonery. The situation effectively demonstrates the dilemma presented by Young holding multiple portfolios (as noted last week).

As PNM PRO or Communication Minister, he may have thought his message might defuse the heat generated by the skit depicting the disrobing of a yellow sari from a woman.

Whether he considered the effect of this on the Indian/Hindu community, he obviously didn’t care how the Opposition—whose signature colour is yellow—would respond since the skit targetted UNC’s political image.

However, Young clearly didn’t get the memo on how his opinion would have impacted on his role as National Security Minister in a country overrun by crime and violence toward women—with his Government claiming concern on this.

Those factors also seemed absent from the Prime Minister’s complaint about alleged responses on the matter.

PNM’s Tabaquite unit which did the skit—and had to defend what some PNM officials didn’t do directly—seemed to have organised the depiction on the basis that gorillas and political satire have always been accepted as part of Carnival.

With T&T’s political landscape now minefield status, Government has learned the hard way Carnival is only two days of the year.

However much of T&T’s large Indo sector was affected by the issue, it has proved political weaponry for the Opposition.

Potentially potent if Equal Opportunity Commission scrutiny sought by UNC’s Devant Maharaj finds the skit breaches EOC law on offending people in certain ways publicly.

The issue has communicated to PNM how certain PNM “ground” sentiment within could work against it. And that “casual” in the face of concerns, isn’t real communication.

Different messages of dissatisfaction from the “ground”—within PNM turf this time–were sent with Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds’ watery Beetham “reception.”

Most telling was the admission by Beetham Gardens Community Council PRO Kareem Marcelle. Despite his apology to Hinds, he said many residents remained unapologetic.

And in-house PNM again, party leadership sent its own telling reply–a slate by the leader—following messages about party unity with the emergence of potential challengers for PNM’s September internal poll.

The level of concern about challengers is demonstrated in the fact that the leader traditionally doesn’t have a slate, PNM strategists explained.

His slate will therefore be geared to ensure his team—and he—maintain party control, rather than the former frontline Manning PNM personalities expected to contest.

How much detail on election plans will be given at this afternoon’s PNM General Council meeting, remains ahead.

But whatever message Prime Minister Keith Rowley conveys at tonight’s PNM meeting in Malabar, it’s likely to weigh in–directly or indirectly—on the assorted messages his party has sent and received in recent days.

For J Public, however, action also speaks louder than words.

And will be judged by that.


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