In 2010 we saw a rejuvenated UNC re-brand itself after getting rid of Basdeo Panday. A lot of money, effort and Ernie Ross went into making over Kamla. On the campaign trail she was constantly surrounded by foreign security guards. Her normal attire was a yellow sweater twin-set and black pencil skirt, with perfectly coiffed hair. An accent, not bought from Honda, became readily apparent and we became the NAY SHUN. Persad-Bissessar, desperate to prove to us that she was a breath of fresh air, the chayyyynge that was blowing through the nayyyshun would lip sync Bryan Adams and Celine Dion for us: A New day was coming and Everything she was doing, she was doing for us. Her supporters were ecstatic over the re-branding. They were happy for the new image, and for the opportunity to prove to the rest of the country that the Panday era was behind them.
Tonight the PNM's Keith Rowley reinforced Jamal Mohammed's fears of a re-branded PNM by unveiling just that. This is my first PNM Convention ever, I have no idea what normally takes place. But the presentation of the Political Leader this afternoon was an interesting concoction of fanfare and substance. The PNM, a party that I have often considered to be stuck in the Jurassic era used a lot of multimedia this afternoon, and I was happy to see that. There were two documentaries: one on Section 34 and another on Rowley the Man.
Section 34 gave us a synopsis of the Constitutional crisis facing the country complete with man-on-the-street and informed talking heads (Faris Al Sexy and Justin Jwoww Phelps). the documentary on The Keith sought to show Rowley in a new light. Not the aggressive parliamentarian that earned him the name of rottweiller, but the man that Tobagonians see. Last week after returning from the Tobago meeting I commented to a few friends that the Rowley seen in Tobago and the one seen in Trinidad are two different beasts. Tobago is where he relaxes, stands up and limes with a crowd of people after a meeting and smiles and jokes.
Today the gathering at the QPS Grand Stand got to see some of that as the documentary showed Keith in his Mason Hall home, looking very much the gentleman farmer on land inherited from his grandfather, surrounded by other Tobagonians, family members and with a cameo from the Anglican archbishop. You saw Rowley as husband, father and neighbour.
Then there was the short video introduction to his speech that showed Franklyn Khan calling The Keith on his Blackberry. The Keith getting ready, and poking fun at himself several times pretending to comb his hair and even pausing on his was to the Savannah to pet a vicious looking dog. Who knew the man had a sense of humour? Then he and wife Sharon emerged on stage, and you don't have to like Rowley to admit that he and his wife are a very handsome couple.
Then came the speech. And what it was, was a well crafted manifesto. It is the second time in a month that The Keith has presented an energy and debt servicing policy as a counterpoint to the abysmal budget Larry Howai delivered on October 1st. And when you consider the Ministry of Works asking for $2.7b since the Budget was read, and today's announcement that the AG needs $1.3b to pay for the OPV arbitration; Keith's policies and plans re the country's finances begin to look far more attractive than the mismanagement and misstepping that Kamla and her small goal side have given us.
Between Independence Day to the present the Opposition Leader has used every opportunity at his disposal to present himself as Prime Ministerial; to show that he has the intelligence and leadership skills necessary to, as he said today, put the country back on track. And it doesn't help the UNCs cause that at every turn they are doing absolute crap and Kamla....the epitome of female leadership remains the mum mother and grandmother.
Indeed, the Prime Minister is probably hoping that Ernie Ross can give the country a dose of Kamnesia and make us forget the non-stop missteps of the last 2.5 years. In this upcoming week, when a massive protest is planned expect more wild statements from her ministers, especially Ministers who until now have been quiet. Expect all manner of distraction. And expect Rowley's new look and his manifesto to be bashed even though the PPG has nothing by way of actual policy in the entire term to date that can compare. In fact, Rowley seems to be doing the Government's homework time and again.
But new image a side, there was another aspect to today's convention that was more satisfying to me and it is an area that I would like to see The Keith and his executive address. I had the pleasure and honour today of meeting Rick Rampersad and it was all accidental. I'd gone into the media room to charge my phone and ipad when a colleague brought in a young man to do an interview. The gentleman was from the West Orupouche seat (same one as Stacy Ramnarine). What started as an interview between him and the reporter quickly became a conversation between him and several people. Rick Rampersad talked about Indians in politics, particularly Hindus in politics in a way that isn't discussed on the campaign trail. It was frank, respectful and refreshing. Not just the party's voter base, but the entire country needs to be hearing more voices like Rick Rampersad's. the face of the PNM is too often seen to be Black and Christian. It never looks as all inclusive as it claims to be and voices such as Rampersad's and a host of others NEED to come to the fore.
As I write the COP is having it's internal elections and no doubt the UNC is ensuring that it gets as many of its people into the party's key positions that way Kamla can continue to call the shots. Once Kamla can call the shots she assures herself several things: no COP walking out before the next elections; and no COP to split votes then either.
This weekend the PNM showed that it can and will evolve in order to survive. It's leader has shown that apart from being bright and incisively intelligent he is also flexible enough shake up his own image. THA elections are around the corner. Time to see if the UNC has more to offer the electorate than really bad PR and an empty treasury.
De Vice Cyah Done!