Cracks appear in Trinidad's coalition
BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 6/14/2012, 1:16 p.m.
Cracks have started to appear in the governing multiparty coalition in Trinidad, with at least one of the five parties giving very clear hints this week that it is preparing to abandon ship and return to its traditional labor moorings
The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ)--not by any stretch of the imagination a large or influential political force in the cabinet of the twin island republic with Tobago--has been complaining that the People's Partnership of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is straying from its roots. Furthermore, the MSJ believes it has become corrupted and a bit uncaring of the views of the populace, much like its predecessor, ex-head of government Patrick Manning's People's National Movement (PNM).
This is as the prime minister--who, along with Portia Simpson-Miller, is one of two women leaders in the Caribbean trade bloc--prepares to reshuffle her cabinet after 25 months in office amidst growing discontent with the state of the economy, crime, inflation and graft among high officials.
The reshuffle--or reconfiguration, as Persad-Bissessar has put it--should have been announced this week, but it has been pushed back to June 19, when the island celebrates Labor Day.
"I haven't decided yet. We'll find a way to let everyone know, first the ministers themselves and thereafter the public. No decisions have been completely made. There are several thoughts on my own mind and in the minds of others," the prime minister said.
But even as she was speaking, local reporters were pecking away at the MSJ about its constant harping about abandoning the coalition, even though it is widely considered a political lightweight and might not cause that much damage if it indeed departs. The group comprises several powerful labor unions, including those in the oil and gas industry.
"Patience, patience, patience. You shouldn't have to wait too long again. Patience," urged Ancel Roget of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union. An announcement could flow from the platform of Labor Day rallies planned for next week.
Apart from corruption and other grievances, the MSJ remains bitter with the East Indian-led coalition for imposing a state of emergency last year just as the groups were mobilizing to call a general strike to press for better wages and working condition. Roget says it no longer feels part of the partnership and does not support it anymore. The state of emergency scrubbed plans for protest and other actions and was widely seen as a pretext to nullify the plans of labor. The rift that resulted has remained ever since.
The reshuffle is expected to affect several ministers seen as underperforming or not dealing with corruption, while others face daily criticism because of violent crimes, including 178 murders for the year so far.