PNM never won an election
Photo : Eric Williams
The regular protests in East Port of Spain is a growing menace to commuters to the capital city, the economic development of the country and the general peace, harmony and international image of the country. The burning of debris and emptying of garbage on the streets, the unruly behaviour of residents and their defiance of the police put fears in the minds of law abiding citizens. Business houses, schools and the general public using the roadways have all been affected. Three schools had to shut their doors for the safety and security of their pupils during the last protest two weeks ago.
East Port of Spain is not a community as such. It is an assembly of mainly migrants brought by the PNM administration in the 1960s to build a vote bank to secure the PNM in power. The result of the 1956 election was not a “victory” for the PNM. With two battleships situated on the Gulf of Paria-one in Port of Spain and the other in San Fernando- Governor Beetham proceeded to ensure that the PNM was installed in power and not the PDP following the 1956 General Elections. The PDP was led by Bhadase Sagan Maraj, a heathen and a threat to the Christian civilization in the eyes of the Governor and the Colonial Office.
The Legislative Council in 1956 had 31 members-24 elected; 2 officials and 5 nominated. When the ballots were counted the PNM won 13 seats; the PDP 5; Independent 2; TLP-NDP 2 and the Butler Party 2. Given the rules in the Legislative Council it was impossible for Dr Eric Williams to form a government.
Constitutionally, Dr Eric Williams was unable to form a government. However, Governor Beetham was ready to facilitate him but some of the demands that Dr Williams was making were unconstitutional and the governor was unwilling to accede to his requests.
Kirk Meighoo wrote: “The day after the elections, on September 25, 1956 Governor Beetham sent for Williams to discuss the formation of a government. The Governor had assured Williams that the two official members would vote with the government but that, according to the terms of the 1956 Constitution, he could not accede to Williams’s request that two nominated unofficial members be appointed by the PNM and that the other three be appointed after consultation with him.” (Meighoo, Kirk Peter, Politics in a half made society, 2003).
The PNM government of 1956 was a minority government. Kirk Meighoo wrote: “The PNM polled less than 40 percent of the total votes cast. Five of their victories were won by less than 1,500 votes.” In the St Joseph constituency Kamaludin Mohammed of the PNM won by 109 votes over Chanka Maharaj, an Independent. In Tunapuna Surujpat Mathura lost to Learie Constantine by 179 votes; in the eastern Counties of Nariva/Mayaro and St Andrew/St David, too, the PNM polled only 24.2 percent of the votes cast.
Nevertheless, the PNM was installed in power only after instruction from the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Dr Eric Williams was an individual that hated defeat. In 1958 the PNM lost the West Indian Federal Elections to the DLP which won 6 of the 10 seats. This was a victory that Dr Williams was not prepared to accept. In an address titled “Danger Facing Trinidad and the West Indian Nation” Dr Williams described the Indians as a “wave of illiteracy swamping the PNM’s urban strongholds” and went on to charge that they were “prostituting the name of India for selfish and reactionary ends.” He called Victor Bryan, a white member of the DLP, a “lickspittle of Bhadase Sagan Maraj” and accused the whites, the Church and the press of peddling hate and vendetta against the PNM.
The PNM went on to lose two by-elections in Point a Pierre and St Andrew/St David when Asford Sinanan and Victor Bryan respectively resigned their seats to fight the Federal Election.
Again, in 1959, the PNM went on to lose the Local Government Elections 5 to 7 to the DLP. With the promise of independence by the British, Dr Williams knew fully well that he was not going to form the next government in a free and fair election. Port of Spain North was not a stronghold of the PNM. In the Municipal elections of 1956 and 1959 the PNM candidate lost to Louis Philip Rostant, a French Creole and Alphonso Hadeed, a Syrian, respectively. Hence, Dr Williams resorting to inviting Afro-West Indians from Grenada and St Vincent to settle in East Port of Spain.
According to Gerard A. Besson (The Cult of the Will, 2010) “ …Williams was more interested in securing a legacy for the “true inheritors” ( a term used by Williams to describe the Afro-Creole masses) than being a contemporary Third World revolutionary like Fidel Castro…”
Dr Eric Williams’ sole objective was the empowerment of the black masses at the expense of the nation. With not a clear victory in 1961 Dr Williams ventured to gerrymandering or the re-drawing of electoral boundaries, the compilation of a new voter-registration list and the introduction of the voting machine to replace the ballot paper and frustrate the illiterate Indians.
The legacy of the PNM is state patronage. So long as the PNM can feed its supporters there is going to be social order. In 1970 the country woke up to the black power uprising. The gain from the black power was the nationalisation of industries. Today our State companies are all losing money. Recently we saw the downsizing of the operations of TSTT. Currently, Petrotrin is working round the clock to restructure its operations with the hope of repaying its debts and returning a profit.
The PNM has never won an election in Trinidad and Tobago and hence the reason it is preoccupied with building houses in marginal constituencies to voter pad. Despite protests by the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago, the PNM is hell bent on going ahead with its proposal to build houses in St Joseph. This includes the plan to eject the settlers from Farm Road (Bangladesh) with the falsehood that the settlement is sitting on an aquifer.
Given the rapidly changing global energy industry and the failure of the country to diversify the economy, the economic future of the country remains grim. The challenge facing the nation is not about winning the next elections but about introducing viable diversification programmes to generate employment and revenues to meet our expenses.
Sadly, the PNM knows only two things: how to persecute its political rivals and how to “win” an election. With no money available, the future of the PNM is gloomy and the nation may see itself returning to the 1970s where black people would take to the streets demanding the empowerment of black people and blaming whites and the Indians for their sorry state. I hope that blacks would one day muster the moral courage to understand that their future is their hands; not on casting blame on Indians and massa.