Editorial | Patrick Manning’s legacy
Near the end, Patrick Manning was sometimes ridiculed for supposed religious eccentricities. He was also accused of a waned political judgement that gave purchase in government to people deemed to be corrupt.
Indeed, it was the latter claim by Keith Rowley, the current prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Mr Manning's successor as leader of the People's National Movement, that, in 2008, led, in part, to Dr Rowley's firing from Mr Manning's Cabinet.
But these fallibilities, in the end, were not all that defined Patrick Manning, who died this week, aged 69. For, as Dr Rowley remarked in the wake of Mr Manning's death, their relationship as political colleagues constituted more than their falling out. And of Mr Manning's broader contribution to Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Rowley argued, "History will absolve" the former prime minister.
"I want to say to the young people of this country, look at UTT (the University of Trinidad and Tobago), look at GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses Programme), and you see Patrick Manning, his vision ... and to the country, look at LNG
(liquefied natural gas) and how we pay our bills today and you see Patrick Manning and his effect on Trinidad and Tobago," Dr Rowley said.
This newspaper agrees with Dr Rowley's assessment of Mr Manning's contribution to his home country during a long life in politics, but it is P.J. Patterson, the former Jamaican prime minister, to whom we look for a larger, underappreciated aspect of Patrick Manning's endeavour: his work on behalf of regional integration and, more specifically, the strengthening of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Too often, relations in CARICOM are rendered to ill-defined trade disputes between Kingston and Port-of-Spain, and travel problems encountered by some Jamaican visitors to Trinidad and Tobago - the evidence of a presumed anti-Jamaican bias in CARICOM. What is not generally known is that Patrick Manning was a committed regionalist, whose administrations (1991-1995 and 2001-2010) strongly pursued regional initiatives.
At a subregional level, Mr Manning's
government offered energy support to some neighbouring CARICOM states and, at one stage, promoted closer political ties beyond those provided for in the CARICOM mechanisms, between Trinidad and Tobago and member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Indeed, like Mr Patterson, with whom he worked closely, Patrick Manning promoted the evolution of CARICOM from a functional cooperation and free trade grouping to a genuine single market and economy and worked towards to the establishment of the kind of supranational arrangements required for the seamless operation of this kind of community.
As Mr Patterson acknowledged in his tribute to Patrick Manning, they often met resistance to the establishment of this kind of machinery, which contributes to a perception of CARICOM's failure to fulfil its promise. It has not helped that Trinidad is blessed with energy resources that it used to fire its economy.
Nonetheless, Mr Patterson's strong remembrance of Patrick Manning is his declaration of the "importance of the Caribbean working together" in advancement of their welfare and the promotion of the common identity of its people.
In these times of CARICOM reviews, it's a lesson that ought not to be forgotten and a legacy worth living.