Sunday, June 15, 2014

The March... (Why the Round Table Collapsed Part 2)

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

The March

Long before we even got to a march the members of the Medical Practitioners Association (MPATT) voiced strong concerns as to the overtly political nature of the assembly, and while they had serious problems that needed addressing, they did not think that this type of organization would suit their long term needs and pulled out. The Joint Consultative Council (JCC) represented by their spokesperson Afra Raymond also made a presentation at that gathering lambasting the present government and the past one for being equally unresponsive to their needs and in the following up on the recommendations of the UFF report on the construction sector and after his contribution they too left. By the time we got to the second meeting we had moved from Normandie Hotel to the Ambassador Hotel on Long Circular Road and it is at the first meeting at the new location that discussions were had as to everyone else's involvement and a response to Section 34.

Had I the foresight then to see what they saw I too would have left after the first meeting, but it is here that I must confess that my motives were also driven by an agenda. It is no secret that I have always considered Jack Warner as an enemy to decency and an obstacle to integrity and my reaction to his presence in the government replaced my reaction to Patrick Manning's. I wanted him out, and if this rag tag bunch of political bandwagonists were prepared to help make that a possibility, inasmuch as our purposes overlapped Section 34 it would have to be.

It was always clear that the public's outrage over the thought of the two men who most represented the corruption of the Piarco Airport scandal escaping judgement over a legal technicality would provide the impetus to challenge the government and weaken it, and to my mind if that could end in the ejection of Jack Warner then so be it. Never was I aware that the Unions through their political arm the Movement for Social Justice had already aligned themselves politically and in secret with the People's National Movement for an even greater objective, the seizing of power, and, had I known then what I know now, would never would have entertained David Abdulah's entreaties to join with them.

But more of that in part three.

With the assembly sufficiently set on fire to be the fulcrum for the public's outrage, the next step was to decide how to harness it. Many of us present over the next few meetings got an education and an insight into the workings and the minds of trade unionists, and if for nothing else, that experience I expect to serve me well in the future if ever I am engaged with union negotiations bogged down in a game of chicken. The idea was advanced and accepted, to call for a massive protest march that would force the government's hand on all manner of issues. I wont bore you with details but certain key personalities took responsibility for certain key issues and the planning was begun in earnest, as was the advertising and before you knew it we were all gathered at Woodford Square in our tens of thousands.

Marching Off:

From the moment the march itself made off from its moorings in Woodford Square the mask of this being a civil society response fell away, exposing the political coalition at the front. The People's National Movement needed this badly, and even though it was not a march of PNM supporters, it was clear that that party's leadership were prepared to 'fake it until they could make it.' To the public that made up the body of the march this was all about a rejection of Section 34, but to the PNM and their new coalition partners this was heady wine. So much so that they have never recovered from that Section 34 march and have sought to tie every media opportunity to it hoping to fan the flames of public resentment and the attention of a public that have long since moved on. The fact that each and every march that they have organized since have had less numbers than the one before should also be instructive, and by the time we returned to 'base' for our post march meeting the Round Table had already fallen apart.

The rest of civil society challenged this politicizing of the intentions of the group at the very first opportunity, and what was discussed and what came out of the next meeting that precipitated the end will be shared in next week's final installment – The Collapse.

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