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 THE GREAT PNM STRATEGY

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Honeylu
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PostSubject: THE GREAT PNM STRATEGY   Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:09 pm

By Peter O’Connor

Published in the Sunday Guardian, 6th September 1987, page 16

Note: This was written in September 1987, about nine months after the National Alliance for Reconstruction had swept the PNM from power in December 1986. It was written at the time of the campaigning for Local Government Elections. It was written at the time when, with our Treasury having been emptied by Sodeteg at the Mount Hope Hospital, and the Government-to-Government cost overruns ion the Twin Towers, the Hall of Justice, the BWIA and Tesoro and Caroni Race Track “deals”, the country had already accepted that it all was the fault of the new NAR Government. Please read this (I have the original photocopy from the Guardian) re-typed piece and think of its possible relevance today.

“During the 1986 General Elections campaign, every tactical error made by the PNM was greeted with joy and exhilaration.

Every now and then somebody would wonder—how could a party, so experienced in campaigns, be failing itself so badly? Such wonder was soon smothered by ridicule and a New Chambers Joke.

Nine Months After

However, nine months after the General Election, the suggestion that “the PNM set out to lose” is seriously discussed whenever the question arises.

In my opinion, the survival of the PNM depended solely on losing at the polls last December, and the PNM, more than anyone else was aware of this and therefore assured the NAR of a victory which the latter may have achieved on the strength of its own campaign, and on the acknowledged failings of the Government.

The PNM, more than anyone else, knew what was going to happen in Trinidad and Tobago in 1987 and beyond. They knew that no government could maintain popularity through 1987 and 1988.

“Holding Actions”
However, the “holding actions” on the part of the PNM during the years 1984, 1985 and 1986 were more drastic than the changes forced upon the new government in 1987.

The previous government cut subsidies on basic foods, gasoline, cooking gas, fertilizers, cement, electricity, water and telephones, reduced the school feeding programme, reduced currency allowances for holiday travel, and devalued the TT dollar.

They retrenched workers in some State Enterprises—for example Secondary Roads Company Ltd. and refused to honour an award of the Industrial court to pay increased wages to workers of State-Owned Caroni Ltd.

These burdens were accepted without undue protest by the population for two reasons. Firstly, people were generally aware that conditions had changed for the worse, and secondly, many people saw the futility of marching and demonstrating against a regime which they intended to vote out of power in a few months.

So, with the standard of living falling, with major companies like Kirpalani’s and MacEnearney, among others, going into receivership, with tremendous loss of jobs, and so on all through 1986, with subsidies removed or reduced, with devaluation laid upon us, the people did not take to the streets.

However, within months of a new Government being in power, on a larger mandate than the PNM ever received, demonstrations and marches have become a regular feature of our lives.

When the previous Government physically removed vendors in Port of Spain there was no march, but when the new Government banned the importation of garments by vendors, there were noisy, highly-publicized demonstrations.

I am suggesting that the PNM has skillfully used other elements of the society to march and complain about issues for which the PNM is solely responsible. They publicly acknowledged that they abandoned planning the development of the country.

Empty Treasury
They publicly stated their dishonesty—“”all of we t’ief”, they engaged in an orgy of last-minute expenditure at the end of 1986 to ensure that the Treasury would be empty upon departure.

Examples were the vulgar orgy at the “opening” of the Mt. Hope Hospital and “sweetheart” contracts awarded to friends and state organizations.

The PNM had read correctly the amazingly short memories of the population, many of whom are already accepting that the NAR is responsible for our situation, and is exploiting this lapse in our memory to the fullest.

Ribin Montano is jumping up and down in the Senate seeking to “protect” us from corruption, when he should be telling the Alan Alexander Commission the details of the attempts by Koreans to bribe him in order to get housing contracts. Ah, but that was 1984, and we forget that already.

Protection Shield
Patrick Manning, in embracing an NAR defector at Rio Claro, promised him protection from victimization, stating that the PNM will provide a “shield of protection”.

And he knew what that meant, and so did we—for that “shield” protected O’Halloran, and Davidson, and McDonnell-Douglas, and the accounts of PLIPDECO etc. etc. but all that was yesterday, and we forget already.

John Ekstein writes labouriously in the Guardian about the current failings of the Ministry of Health. In the Guardian? Is this the same John Ekstein who vilified the Guardian so terribly in November 1986? Yes, but that was months ago, and we, and John, and the Guardian forget that too!

Hugh Francis writes in the Express, about the “PNM giveth, the NAR taketh away.”He did not mention that the PNM “tooketh away” millions of dollars of oil money, much of it going to the heirs of O’halloran and others. He told of the subsidies given by the PNM, but not of subsidies removed by them. He spoke of jobs created under the PNM, but not of jobs lost under the PNM. But all that was in 1985 and 1986—so forget that, this is 1987.

More Benefits
The facts are, that with the exception of the removal of Public Servants’ COLA, more benefits were surrendered by workers, and more workers lost their jobs, in the first eight months of 1986 than in the first eight months of 1987.

More subsidies were removed in the 1986 Budget than in the 1987 Budget. More hardships, in terms of levies, taxes, and so on, were imposed by the PNM in ‘84, ‘85 and ’86 than were imposed in the 1987 budget. The 1986 Devaluation was a serious burden to the population, as was the removal of the two-tiered exchange rate in 1987.

Those are the facts, and the reality is, as we all accepted in 1986, that the PNM had brought this country, in economic terms, to its knees, and it did so in spite of having massive wealth at its disposal. So why are we blaming the new Government, and indeed, what are we blaming them for?

Total Contrast
We are blaming them because they are now in charge, because you always blame the ones in charge. We are blaming them because the PNM is telling us to.

We are blaming the present Government for the sins of the past Government, and we are blaming the present Government for increasing, although certainly not doubling, the burden we were already carrying.

The skill with which the PNM has exploited the situation is in total contrast to the ineptitude of their 1986 Election Campaign, and that is why I maintain they took a conscious decision to sacrifice the 1986 elections and step out of Government, so that others would have to carry the burden, and take the blame, for what was going to happen.

Had the PNM won, the demonstrations and the marches would not have been eased with the knowledge that “new boys” were trying, but would have been fanned by the bitterness of knowing that the new burdens, the additional burdens, were being placed upon us by the regime which did not care, which did not plan, where “all man tief”, and the country may have been in total chaos and civil strife by now.

So, in saving the party to run another day, the PNM has also probably saved our country.

Past Government
Notwithstanding this side-effect of their sacrifice, I do not feel that the electorate has forgotten the failings of the past government, and notwithstanding the fervor of the surviving “Gang of Three” (Manning, Morris Marshall, Muriel Donawa McDavidson) aided by their erstwhile antagonists and assorted newcomers, I do not believe that the tenor of protest reflect genuine public sentiment. I will bet on the mass of mostly silent people, those who do not jump up and wine when Robin Montano exhorts Laventille to go out on September 14 (Local Elections polling day) and “Bun Dem… Bun Dem…. Bun Dem….!”

You see, although some memories are short, most will remember who Black Stalin was singing about (When he called to St. Peter at the “Gate”—Bun he, Bun she!). He was singing about O’Halloran, and the PNM, and Dem.
oooooooo--------------------oooooooooooo-------------------ooooooooooo
DISCUSSION:

Does this ring any “memory bells”, anyone? I accept that I was totally wrong in the penultimate paragraph (I was much more innocent then!), for the people were “buying it”—hook, line and sinker—that the NAR “was too wicked”, and this, planned buildup of hatemongering, which we are seeing again today, built the mood which created the 1990 attempted coup—which the PNM clearly supported.

Notwithstanding the several serious failings of the PP Government, this is not the way to go. We are courting serious danger if we do not realize this!
Peter O’Connor




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