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Dear Editor: It was Panday—not Manning—who coined ‘community leader’ euphemism

“The time has come to correct gross inaccuracies pertaining to the widespread claim that former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and also former political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Mr Patrick Manning had coined the phrase ‘community leaders’.

“[…] Undisputed facts will clearly demonstrate that it was United National Congress (UNC) under the leadership of Mr Basdeo Panday that coined the phrase ‘community leaders’ when known gang leader, the late Sean Francis, contested the 12 July, 1999 Local Government Elections on a UNC ticket.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which seeks to attribute blame for the paternity of the questionable phrase ‘community leader,’ was submitted to Wired868 by former PNM general secretary and mayor of Arima, Ashton Ford:

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Basdeo Panday (right) shares a joke with then Cuba president Fidel Castro during the closing ceremony of a CARIFORUM meeting in 1998.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Roberto Schmidt)

The time has come to correct gross inaccuracies pertaining to the widespread claim that former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and also former political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Mr Patrick Manning had coined the phrase “community leaders.”

I also want to condemn those elements in the media who link the phrase “community leaders” and Mr Manning’s meeting with so-called gang leaders as the “PNM harbouring criminals.”

Undisputed facts will clearly demonstrate that it was the United National Congress (UNC) under the leadership of Mr Basdeo Panday that coined the phrase “community leaders” when known gang leader, the late Sean Francis, contested the 12 July, 1999 Local Government Elections on a UNC ticket.

Given Francis’ known background in the criminal world and considering the fact that he was a person of interest to the police, the media queried if his candidacy would have had a negative effect on his party.

Mr Panday was unmoved and indicated to the media that everybody deserves a second chance and he further described Francis as a community leader. Francis contested the San Juan/Caledonia seat for the UNC and lost to the PNM’s Harvey Borris.

Photo: The late Sean Francis, described by the police as a nefarious gangster,, poses with sons Corey Bonadie (left) and Kevon Inniss.
Francis was murdered in April 2009 after being shot at least 50 times. He was 41.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

I was taken aback when radio and television hosts on their morning programmes recently accused the PNM of harbouring criminals because of the meeting between Mr Manning and the so-called gang leaders [in 2002].

I would like to ask these commentators this question: Which approach constitutes harbouring criminals a) trying to make peace among warring gangs or b) giving known gang leaders an opportunity to be part of the governance of the country?

It is to be noted that Mr Manning was not alone in trying to bring peace in the Laventille/Morvant communities. Several efforts were made by NGOs, individuals and even Father Clyde Harvey, who organised peace marches, signing of treaties among gangs and meetings with so-called leaders aimed at curbing the violence in the districts.

So attributing these statements to Mr Manning and the PNM is grossly inaccurate.

It is not the only time when certain elements in the media and other individuals made unjustified claims against the PNM. People actually took the oath to speak the truth before the Commission of Inquiry into the 1990 events and told deliberate lies.

They claimed that Mr Manning, then the Opposition Leader, and the PNM never condemned the attempted coup. In response to that claim, I submitted newspaper clippings to the Commissioners providing proof that Mr Manning and Dr Lenny Saith, then Chairman of the PNM, had condemned the coup on at least three occasions.

Photo: An insurrectionist surrenders to the Defence Force after the attempted coup on 27 July, 1990.

I don’t know why some elements in the media insist on putting a spin, twisting the facts or attempting to rewrite the history of T&T when it comes to the PNM and national issues.

Only recently, the UNC did not support the government in Parliament on the Anti-Gang legislation despite the fact that when they were in government and presented the same legislation the PNM did not hesitate in supporting it.

It therefore becomes imperative for me to protect the legacy of the PNM and also to ensure that the work of the party in developing our beloved country is properly recorded.

In the circumstances, I would like the people who have been misleading the country for the past few days and casting aspersions on Mr Manning and the PNM on the crime problem to apologise to his family and the PNM as a whole.

Photo: The late Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning (centre) waves during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 27 November, 2009.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Luis Acosta)

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133 comments

  1. All we need is someone to fix the problem, who started it doesn’t matter. If the present government cannot do it, elect someone who could.

  2. Ok , we got it , this gang business started flourishing after the 1990 attempted coup and it was encouraged to a greater extent by Pandays UNC , now is the time to eradicate them and Kamla s UNC is blocking every move

  3. I don’t think it’s about who coined the name , it’s about who encouraged that type of behavior and tried to give it respectability