On any given day I am approached by people from all walks of life who apparently have no problem off-loading all of their political cares and concerns on me as if they and I have been friends for life or as if this were somehow my role in the thing. I have no problem as sometimes these exchanges could be funny, other times eye opening, usually informative, and for the most part as long as it is reasonable I bring it to the public in the hopes of broadening the national discussion.
Take my good friend the elderly doctor from an upper class neighborhood in Diego Martin West who bounced me up in West Bee's carpark on Sunday morning, he raised an issue I must confess I had overlooked, and his treatment of the matter seemed so rational I thought it should be advanced.
Long recognized as the 'black' party for its afro-centric roots (as opposed to the United National Congress' more indo-centric lean), the doctor's statement that the new face of the PNM appears anything but, and while he said he applauded any organization that reverses its own racist, tribal, or otherwise divisive agenda, in the cut and thrust of politics the people presented are usually packaged to attract votes and for that reason usually tend to reflect the demographic of the target audience so who was the PNM targeting now?
He got my attention.
“Change is great and broadening of the base is ideal” he went on, “but if one were to line up the PNM's Parliamentary front line and put it to stand next to its own Senatorial arm the contrast is so striking as to beg a question on the surface, is the PNM trying to compete with the United National Congress for the East Indian vote?” I was stunned by the question. He went on “If the answer to that is no, how then does one explain all of the appointments and much of the successful screenings having so few traditional PNM and dare I say African looking faces? With the exception of Maxie Cuffie, almost every other single appointment made and advanced by the Keith Rowley team has thus far been anything but Afro-centric, and while I (his words) like every other forward thinking, all inclusive patriot again wholeheartedly and fully support the notion of all inclusion in this beautiful multicultural nation of ours, at what point do we begin to look at not so much as to what has been included, but in acknowledging what has been excluded?”
I was beginning to see his point.
“Where are the young, bright, educated and talented Afro-Trini members of that party that were allegedly being groomed under (former Prime Minister) Manning, and why aren't the older heads advocating for their inclusion among the new ranks?”
He continued passionately “Clarence Rhambarath, Justin Phelps, Stuart Young, Faris al Rawi, Diane Baldeo-Chadeesingh, Avinash Singh, Alif Mohammed, Neil Mohammed, Terry Shaun Jadoonanan, Abbegail Nandalal and Terrnece Deyalsingh all make up the list of now frontline speakers, Senators and successfully screened candidates, and when one takes the leadership council of Andrew Gabriel, Rohan Sinanan and Franklin Khan into account, doesn't it strike anyone else as odd the almost one hundred and eighty degree turn where people of African descent are concerned that the People's National Movement has made since Keith Rowley rose to power?”
I must admit I was starting to see his 'point' even more clearly, but surely there had to be some other less sinister explanation for the obvious pattern of appointments, standing there in the noon day sun I was hard pressed to find one.
Seeing my discomfort in being cast in the role of listener in a dialogue to which I could not reasonably contribute my friend brought our time together to a close with two more questions. He asked me to ask who is the the People in the People's National Movement now that the new look has swept away the old guard, and the last question he asked needs to be asked in his words - “In a world where the PNM seems to have abandoned its roots and turned its back on the very people who put them into public office, who is supposed to represent the now orphaned children of the Balisier wandering the political wilderness of Trinidad & Tobago?”
I found that I could not answer any of his questions satisfactorily even to my own mind and that troubled me. In pondering the possible and the plausible the obvious kept presenting itself, and if that were to be the real answer then I worry for the grandchildren of Africa in Trinidad & Tobago, long under-represented by the politics and social experiments of the PNM, they are in desperate need of a new dispensation, leadership with a heart and a vision for them as a people worthy of respect and real representation. I almost forgot I was there to go to the grocery.