If he’s resting under self-quarantine now, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was, however, in his element on Wednesday when his second-term Cabinet was sworn in.
News that the COVID-19 cloud over T&T had touched UNC’s Dr Tim Gopeesingh was followed by Rowley’s announcement of learning Thursday that he was exposed 10 days ago to a COVID positive person and he’s tested negative.
Many on both sides yesterday hoped for a speedy recovery for Dr Gopeesingh. But apart from eyes peeled on COVID protocols, the political landscape, post-election presents much for them all to consider.
The PNM even after its victory hasn’t stopped fighting—signalling intent to go after UNC’s Princes Town seat—and virtue of this particular term will hardly be able to stop. It’s a term Rowley has signalled may be his last—and UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, hit by calls for her to resign, subsequently took a similar line, alluding to what she projects for the “twilight of her political career” and her legacy.
If they both stick to their respective lines, this will indeed be a legacy-building term for each.
Rowley’s actions have indicated he recognises this. Turning 71 in October,—surviving previous leaders who didn’t go past 69—his bid with a second term could also be historic and his signal for succession planning, evidenced in some ministerial choices, shows he hopes PNM gets a third.
Cabinet choices indicate he wants to complete the unfinished, targetting last term’s self and other inflicted ills. His rationale of sticking with known experienced institutional memory—plus the un-fainthearted—may be seen as necessary in the context of the fluid COVID hit. Above all, his incumbents come to the table with the hard lessons of the past term and election results—and the fact they’re operating under their boss’ legacy term. Which may or may not have been why he reminded them on Wednesday of their 60-month timeline and performance scrutiny.
The PNM’s campaign offerings confirmed the depth of lessons learned including in the tied Local Government elections. While outcomes in Toco Sangre Grande, San Fernando West showed PNM did its homework, the drop in votes, strong UNC showing in areas and Moruga loss informs the party of its challenge even with succession planning evident.
The appointments of Penny Beckles, Dr Amery Browne and late leader Patrick Manning’s son Brian in Finance—were clearly planned to weld the party into a stronger machine and settle its path into succession mode, heralding that PNM may become a new party, something many voters seek. And which may be part of Rowley’s legacy.
Aspects of the Sport, Agriculture and Youth Development Ministries will cater to one of T&T’s biggest issues—youth. Next month’s 2021 Budget will shed light on other areas—and the appropriateness of retaining key incumbents.
As the most challenging Budget to formulate it will have to balance global and local economic demands and solutions alongside political considerations of a Government needing to soothe a state, level the playing field for the survival of all —and targetting a third term. Rowley’s legacy also extends to consolidating PNM’s position for Tobago House of Assembly polls expected January in a scenario where work’s still needed.
Even before being appointed minister were reminded of what resistance lies ahead (not to be confused with Spray Painter Resistance.)
UNC’s Persad-Bissessar intention to head the strongest Opposition is a nod to her legacy and swat at comments against her team whom T&T collectively rejected. Her recent address (belatedly) pitched unity also used by US Democrats star Kamala Harris who’s illuminating America’s landscape.
Whether Persad-Bissessar’s admission that she’s in the twilight of her political career may trigger calls for her to stay remains ahead. Her 18 personally approved MPs who support for her, command certain constituencies., MPs and members will have to ascertain the national landscape before they decide in UNC elections what to offer T&T.
Even winning Moruga and Persad-Bissessar’s succession planning via her MP choices— they will know much of UNC’s culture must change for it to be seen nationally as viable.