Manning, who has for years been taking medication for his heart condition which have, among their effects, the thinning of his blood, said because of the heart condition, which has required him to take medication, there had to be a period of at least seven days in which he has to stop taking the drug in preparation for surgery. This is because the surgical intervention requires proper coagulation (clotting) of the blood.
Manning said the surgery is expected to take place either next Thursday or Friday.
"And then there would be a two-week recuperation period," he said, adding that he was expected to return home in early January. He will therefore be spending Christmas in Cuba.
Manning added that because of this development, all leave requests by ministers had been cancelled "with immediate effect".
"All ambassadors had been mandated to stay at their posts until I return to Trinidad and Tobago," he further stated. (They will be the medium through which his condition will be communicated to Heads of Governments).
Asked whether he was not concerned, Manning stated somewhat fatalistically: "I must tell you something. You know I don't want to get too much involved in this argument now, but I have no fear of death, if that is where you are heading. I have no fear of death. And therefore I have no undue concern in this matter."
But Manning was not prepared to discuss the possibility of his demise and the political ramifications of that for his party and Government. Asked whether "God forbid" ... any succession planning had been put in place and whether he would be satisfied if Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley were to be chosen as his successor, Manning said: "I will not be here. Read my lips. I will not be here."
Recalling that former prime minister and People's National Movement leader Dr Eric Williams stated in 1976 that the selection of a successor was not a matter for him (Williams), Manning said: "That has not changed. That is not a matter for me. At any rate, why are we discussing a successor? There is no vacancy."
Manning, who is 62 years, gave up drinking and smoking years ago, has not eaten red meat for some time and exercises regularly. He had valve replacement surgery in Cuba and also had a pace-maker inserted in the very hospital facility to which he is now going.
Responding to suggestions that he should have opted for treatment in the United States, a Government source said yesterday: "The Prime Minister has the greatest confidence in the Cuban doctors. It is they who have him alive today."
Before he left his office around 2 p.m. yesterday, sources said Manning was jovial as he said goodbye to members of his staff and wished them a happy, holy Christmas. He also wished the national community a "happy and holy Christmas". Pointing out that it was the period of the birth of Christ, the PM appealed to the population not to leave the Christ out of Christmas.
As he left Piarco for Cuba yesterday afternoon at 5.27, Manning bade farewell to a larger than usual entourage, which included acting PM Dr Lenny Saith, Works Minister Colm Imbert, Health Minister Jerry Narace, Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, his Permanent Secretary Sandra Marchack, advisor Herbert Atwell, PNM Assistant General Secretary Rose Janniere and his entire security detail. Sources said Manning shook hands with every one of them before boarding the Copa Airlines flight with his wife, Hazel, and protocol officer, Kirk St Bernard.