Friday, November 4 2011
We are really forced to wonder on the new roles Patrick Manning has been undertaking. As he distances himself from his own party and its leadership, gathering previously discarded acolytes like Gary Hunt and Ralph Maraj, he seeks to reinsert himself on a political scene which is rapidly moving beyond him.
His latest foray, summoning the media last Wednesday to tell them that they can only ask him the questions which he chooses, indicates a return of the megalomania which had afflicted him when he was defending and praising Calder Hart, and seeking refuge as “Project Manager” of his Spiritual Adviser’s church in Guanapo.
We admit to having no intention of treating Mr Manning lightly over his so-called return to public speaking, especially since his attitude is that he must not be questioned. If we cannot question his outbursts at the scene, so to speak, we will question him here.
It is significant to note that both of Mr Manning’s recent “media conferences” were held in the presence of a group of his supporters, who cheered him lustily on cue, and booed and jeered at media questions which they considered unfavourable to their “leader”. This type of obvious intimidation has been seen in the past at open political meetings, but Manning is introducing a new dimension to media conferences. And to think that he is using his conferences to discuss the “stifling of free speech in parliament”, really is a contradiction of monumental proportions. How can he deny that he has the right to free speech in parliament, a position which he cannot seriously support anyway, and yet instruct the summoned media as to which questions we can ask him?
In answer to one question, as to whether he was undermining Dr Rowley’s leadership of the Opposition and the PNM, he declared his support for Rowley. However, his actions seem to speak more loudly than his words, for he is distancing himself from Balisier House every time he speaks. And indeed, a bemused Rowley is quietly distancing himself from Manning’s recent pronouncements.
When asked why he was using press conferences rather than the Parliament to air his concerns about the state of emergency, he responded, telling us that “you have seen the attempts that have been made in the Parliament to stifle the free and frank expression of views”. Unfortunately, Mr Manning did not elaborate, and apparently took no further questions on this “stifling of free speech” other than to stifle the media. But we are confident that should any arm of the media have felt that there was such “stifling” in parliament, we would have brought this to public notice.
As the longest serving parliamentarian, a fact which Manning loves to boast about, he should know full well that our parliament enjoys a freedom and license which can border on the ridiculous, and the only times we recall, over the years, that members were “stifled” was when someone made unfounded accusations against other members.
Could it be that Mr Manning was referring to the time in the previous parliament, before his suspension which even his own Party could not dispute, when he brought a motion which not one single member of the Opposition PNM spoke on or supported, although it was seconded, just to allow it to be put to the vote?
So can we expect a continuation of these monologue “media conferences”, cheered lustily by his dwindling group of supporters? And for how long will the media continue to attend? It appears Mr Manning has lots of time on his hands, and is quite prepared to waste the media’s time.