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Analyst: Video was attempt to market Rowley
The video geared to soften PNM leader Keith Rowley’s image which was shown at last Sunday’s PNM convention reveals that the organisers realise Rowley is not a “people person,” says political analyst Bishnu Ragoonath. The video, which sought to increase Rowley’s mass appeal, included sequences of Rowley playing with his pitbull dog, driving his black PCU car, relaxing at his Tobago estate home and reading a book.
It also showed his wife Sharon speaking about him, including what she described as “golf, his first love” and that they were art collectors. The video also showed Rowley getting dressed and a comic turn of him grinning when he picked up a comb to do his non-existent hair.
It was arranged by the three-member PNM team which organised the convention, said team member Andrew Gabriel yesterday. Rowley, in his convention address, singled out Gabriel for thanks for organising the convention. An insurance sector executive, Gabriel is a former senator from 1995-1999, appointed by former UNC leader Basdeo Panday.
Panday said yesterday he appointed Gabriel in his bid to have all communities represented in the Senate. Gabriel yesterday declined to speak about his political past, if he had been active since, or when he had become active with the PNM. Rowley did not respond to calls about the kinder, gentler image portrayed by the video and its expected impact.
However, Ragoonath, asked about efforts to groom Rowley’s image for leadership, said:
“Clearly the main message revealed in this is that people in the PNM have recognised Dr Rowley is not a people person and they have to make him into that to market him. “It was an attempt to copy the US-style seen recently in US parties’ conventions of having the candidate’s wife speak on behalf of him.
“So it is clear Dr Rowley has not come across as a man who walks with the people but stands aloof of the PNM membership and this is why the party or whoever is in charge has decided the PNM has to show he is more of a people person.” Ragoonath added: “ Also, I saw where he changed outfits three times during the convention day—from a red shirt in the morning session to a suit for his speech and a jersey for the informal part after.
“So obviously the party recognises the rank-and-file seem to think he is not with them and the PNM now has to create that image to make people feel comfortable with him. “PNM’s challenge is while people may feel disillusioned about the PP at this moment they still don’t feel comfortable with the PNM under Rowley’s leadership.
“His call for people to return to the PNM is a critical one but I am not sure how genuine it is. Until people see things being done differently, they will not consider PNM an alternative and may continue sitting on the fence.
On Friday’s PNM/labour movement march, Ragoonath said: “There is the tendency to associate everything that happens in Trinidad as impacting on Tobago’s politics but I don’t think the march will have the impact on Tobago the PNM will like it to have. “Tobagonians are more concerned about their issues and the march may not necessarily resonate with them.”
Political analyst Dereck Ramsamooj said:“ We saw at the convention a regrouping of hardcore PNMites and some beneficiaries of PNM largesse and people beginning to muster for posts of influence. “The convention sought to portray a unified PNM under Rowley’s leadership.
“Of greater significance was that PNM’s re-imaging beyond former leader Patrick Manning had limited success. Rowleys’s appeal to the electorate is based on his political principles, his style of political rhetoric and willingness to be a decisive leader.
“What is needed beyond re-imaging is the capacity to attract non-traditional PNM members and the party can work towards this with the campaign finance-reform issue and challenging the PP on it.”
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