Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Collapse... (Why the Round Table Collapsed Part 3)

This is the final installment to the three part series on Why the Round Table collapsed.

The Collapse:

Long before we got back to base as it were the tells were there that the Round Table was already over. Following the march I was contacted by numerous leaders who were seething that the march was used to launch the People's National Movement's Tobago House of Assembly campaign, and the meetings before the meeting told me that business as usual was behind us.

By the time everyone had taken their places the new alignment was already visible, and when David Abdulah and Keith Rowley both referred to a Round Table document that they had both been privately discussing that had not been shared with the wider group it was time to speak up. I was the first to interrupt and if the minutes are ever made public you would hear me ask a simple question, is the PNM and MSJ already in a coalition? Abdulah's stammering round-about response was endorsed by Keith Rowley's, but these suspicions of a coalition within the group only served to tick other member's off further. Adding fuel to that fire was the emergence of new member organizations again acknowledged as if discussed prior, and during the first break a meeting of civil society groups prepared us for what was going to come.

As soon as we reconvened Ancil Roget took control of proceedings and led the discussion as to what was the next step. Many of us responded that we were losing sight of our core purpose but Roget was having none of it. Supported by the PNM contingent they began to discuss other marches and plans to destabilize the government, and when Anthony Pinto of the DNA got up to speak to the issue he was not being given a hearing. Wanting to focus on all the ways to hurt the Partnership and force an election, we were treated to the spectacle of the formerly (prior to the march) meek and humble Keith Rowley raising his voice above Pinto's to let all of us who weren't aware know that the PNM were the 'official' opposition of Trinidad & Tobago and they were going to decide the next and appropriate response. This prompted a now visibly angry Anthony Pinto to defiantly move his chair into the center of the space around which the tables were laid and he weighed into Rowley as to why the PNM would not be successful in any election if that was his attitude. After having his say on the political climate, he left the room and slammed the door. DNA political leader Kirk Meighoo then rose to his feet and contributed that it appeared that if it was no longer a civil society protest response then it ought to be a political response, and that as the PNM, MSJ and DNA were the only political parties present, the other groups should withdraw and give them an opportunity to formulate one. My other three colleagues and I spoke among ourselves while that was going on and agreed that that was not what we were there for and should take our leave.

Meighoo's position was noted but shot down by Abdulah, at which time my colleagues and myself and a couple other members said our parting words and left. I walked straight passed the waiting throngs of media with no intention of speaking to the issue but they insisted so I said then that I could only speak for myself and that I was never interested in being part of a PNM led organization nor was I interested in choosing between the then Jack Warner led UNC and the PNM. That interview was carried verbatim, yet funnily enough the only thing covered at the end of that last real Round Table meeting by the remaining PNM, MSJ and union groups were why we left, and was spun to say that we proposed some notion of a coalition with the PNM and left because they were not interested. My track record against the PNM has been clear from my political beginnings and I really have no reason to say anything further other than i could never endorse nor be associated with an organization I reliably believe to be responsible for the squalid conditions and desperation of the thousands of people of the depressed communities east of Port of Spain whose only sin has been to support that party.

That aside, I am sure they must have known at that moment that without us all that was left was going to be an unattractive union-heavy PNM MSJ coalition, and the failure of that group to attract middle of the road Trinidadians was borne out at the failed Round Table public meeting in St. James. For anyone watching, Section 34 may have galvanized the population against the government for what was being accepted as a ruse to benefit UNC financiers, but it certainly was not delivering them to the opposition.

The next morning Kirk Meighoo and myself were invited on the CNC3 morning show and we went, him to speak to the politics of the issue, me to speak on behalf of those who left the Round Table and to debunk that coalition claim. It was also my intention to distance myself publicly from any further actions that group might take as i did not want my name associated with much of what was discussed at that last meeting.

So much so that when I first heard of the murmurings of what became 'emailgate' I knew that this group had not only lost its original purpose and moorings but were quite possibly skirting treason quite closely. PNM financier and back-room coordinator Andrew Gabriel who was on the phone with me while Keith Rowley was reading emailgate into the Hansard, in response to my direct question as to whether the emails were either authenticated or verified, replied tersely that that was not their job. As illuminating a position as that was then, my published position then and now remains the same, that unless those emails could be authenticated and verified, the entire issue should be treated as hogwash.

Like many others I have since learnt that the opposition PNM contributed to and voted for Section 34 themselves and did so resoundingly and unanimously in contradiction to their otherwise public position.The Round Table that was sold to the nation as a civil society response to a burning public issue was nothing but a lie while still in the womb and an abomination from conception. A house of cards built on subterfuge and deception the Round Table was nothing but a well planned farce. Looking back i am surprised it lasted as long as it did.

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