Patrick Manning served as prime minister of T&T for four terms and as the MP for San Fernando East for 44 years before he was forced to bow out of active politics in 2015, three years after he suffered a stroke.
Known for his dapper dress and infectious laughter, Manning was regarded as the consummate politician by those who worked alongside him. Even in the face of illness, he continued to be positive. His wife, Hazel, said, “He always laughing, chatting and talking. He loved to lime with his friends.”
Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning was born in San Fernando on August 17, 1946. He received his secondary education at Presentation College, San Fernando, and his bachelor’s degree from the University of the West Indies, Mona, in 1969. After graduation he returned to T&T where he worked as a geologist for Texaco.
His colourful, four-decade political career began when, at age 24, he was elected San Fernando East MP. That was in 1971 and in the following years, he held a series of minor government positions in the administration of Dr Eric Williams, including parliamentary secretary in various ministries before being appointed junior minister in the Ministry of Finance. In 1979 he was given the additional position of junior minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Manning got his first full Cabinet position in 1981 when, following the death of Dr Williams, George Chambers became prime minister. He was handed the portfolios of Information and Industry and Commerce, then later Energy and Natural Resources.
His ascent to the country’s highest elected political office began after the 1986 general election when the PNM suffered its worst electoral defeat. Manning was one of only three PNM candidates who won their seats. The others were Morris Marshall and Muriel Donawa-McDavidson.
Chambers immediately resigned as political leader of the PNM and Manning was appointed Leader of the Opposition. In 1987 he was elected political leader of the party.
However, Manning’s tenure as Opposition Leader was brief. In 1988, a split in the ruling National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) left the PNM as the minority Opposition party. In 1990 Basdeo Panday was appointed Leader of the Opposition.
Behind the scenes, Manning began rebuilding the party, bringing new faces to the PNM front lines. Among them, a young Dr Keith Rowley, Colm Imbert, the late Ken Valley and Augustus Ramrekersingh. When the PNM defeated the NAR in the December 1991 election, they were given cabinet positions in the first Manning administration.
Manning served his first term as prime minister from December 17, 1991, to November 9, 1995. In 1995, he called a general election one full year before it was constitutionally due. The PNM and UNC each won 17 seats and the NAR won two seats.
The UNC and the NAR united in a coalition and formed the Government, and UNC leader Basdeo Panday replaced Manning as prime minister.
Manning, back in the position of Opposition Leader, led the PNM to another defeat in the 2000 polls.
T&T returned to the polls in December 2001 after the UNC lost its majority in the House of Representatives following four defections. The resulting 18-18 tie left the country in limbo until then president ANR Robinson appointed Manning as prime minister. Robinson would explain years later, that it was because of his experience with Panday in 1986 that he took that decision.
Unable to elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives, Manning proceeded to rule without Parliament until the need to pass a budget forced him to call election in October 2002. The PNM won by a margin of 20 seats to 16.
Manning was again elected prime minister in November 2007 when the PNM won 26 of the 41 seats in Parliament. This proved to be his most controversial term, when rising crime and some national projects drew public criticism.
During this time, T&T hosted two major international events, the Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and Manning pursued his vision to make T&T the financial capital of the Caribbean. He set up a team comprising Arthur Lok Jack, Terrence Farrel, Ken Gordon and Bhoe Tewarie, among others, to compile a strategic plan, Vision 2020, to map the future development of the country.
Facing mounting criticism of his leadership style, Manning decided to seek a fresh mandate. On April 9, 2010, he advised President George Maxwell Richards to dissolve Parliament and a general election was called two years sooner than constitutionally due on May 24, 2010. The PNM lost to the People’s Partnership coalition led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar of the UNC.
Following that defeat, Manning resigned as PNM political leader but remained San Fernando East MP. It was one of the lowest moments in his political life as the rank and file of the party seemingly turned on him with massive protests outside the party’s Balisier House headquarters.
Manning was sent to the Privileges Committee following statements he made in Parliament on November 19, 2010, during a debate on the Interception of Communications Bill about the private residence of Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar. He was suspended from the House of Representatives on May 16, 2011.
In January 2012, Manning suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered. By May 2015, with an election due, he was signalling an end to his 44 years of public service. Following the general election last September, Randall Mitchell replaced him as San Fernando East MP.
On the morning of Tuesday, June 28, Prime Minister Rowley announced that Mr Manning had been admitted to the San Fernando General Hospital. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on Thursday and died at 8.15 am yesterday.
Highlights of Manning’s political career
n Opposition Member, May 26, 2010–June 17, 2015
n Prime Minister, November 7, 2007–May 25, 2010
n Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, October 9, 2002–November 6, 2007
n Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, December 24, 2001–October 9, 2002
n Leader of the Opposition, January 12, 2001–December 23, 2001
n Leader of the Opposition, November 9, 1995–December 11, 2000
n Prime Minister, January 13, 1992–October 6, 1995
n Opposition Member, September 9, 1990–November 19, 1991
n Leader of the Opposition, December 29, 1986–September 8, 1990
n Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, November 17, 1981–October 29, 1986
n Minister of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Minister in the Ministry of the Prime Minister, May 13, 1981–September 18, 1981
n Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Minister in the Ministry of the Prime Minister, March 30, 1981–May 12, 1981
n Parliamentary Secretary, September 22, 1976–March 29, 1981
n Portfolio to oversee Tobago and Minister in the Ministry of Office of the Prime Minister, Information and Finance 1979–1981
n Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of the Prime Minister, February 11, 1973–June 19, 1976
n Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum and Mines May27, 1971–February 10, 1973
By the date of the tenth dissolution of Parliament in 2015, Patrick Manning had served 44 years in the politics of T&T.