Last update: 09-Dec-2013 9:32 pm
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Montano on candidate facing gun charges: ILP to tighten screening system
While the ILP may be out of the local government election race in one San Juan seat—after the candidate for that area was detained for gun and ammunition—the party is still confident of winning San Juan and a handful of other seats, says ILP chairman Robin Montano.
On Wednesday it was reported the ILP candidate was detained at Morvant Police Station after he was allegedly held with a Beretta .45 pistol and 12 rounds of ammunition in a car in Morvant, on Tuesday night. He was questioned by police after a shooting incident in central Trinidad. The man has since been charged.
Montano, asked by T&T Guardian on Wedneday about the situation, said while the ILP leadership hadn’t heard the candidate’s story up until then—and would seek an explanation—he didn’t think the Elections and Boundaries Commission would allow the person to contest once they were charged. He also noted that nomination day had passed on Monday—the deadline for candidates to file nomination forms.
Montano said the ILP’s screening team didn’t have a lot of time to check things out concerning candidates and relied heavily for information on regional co-ordinators for the various areas as well as on lengthy forms the candidates had to fill out. He said the team also relied on candidates telling them the truth and on things being done properly. “Screening was as thorough and professional as we could make it, but we may have to redesign and tighten our system or look at it again,” he added.
Montano said the ILP’s screening team had gone out and met people from “all over.” The team comprises ILP leader Jack Warner, Montano, deputy leaders Lyndira Oudit and Anna Deonarine and the various regional co-ordinators. He said the process involves a system of each member grading candidates up to a maximum of five stars on criteria such as appearance and ability to speak as well as other types of qualifications. Points awarded by screening team members were added up.
Montano said candidates had to produce a police certificate of good character with no convictions as well as answering many questions on the ILP’s application form. He said he didn’t know how the San Juan candidate came through the system, but expected the candidate would have produced a police certificate and got the requisite points on other issues. He said after the ILP closed screening, several people came forward with certain allegations against two candidates before Nomination Day.
“The San Juan candidate was not one of those we were told of...We attempted to check out the allegations and in each case we were satisfied there were no criminal charges pending and police said they had no intention of filing any criminal charges,” Montano explained.
“We have the disadvantage of being the new kid on the block to mount a national campaign. We had to multiply our size to accommodate 136 seats in 14 corporations—one heck of an organisational nightmare. After winning Chaguanas West in July we were duly organised in one constituency and had no offices elsewhere in T&T.
“When July was over, we decided to contest only three corporations for local government—Chaguanas, Tabaquite and Tunapuna—as we didn’t have resources to go nationally and we felt we could make in those three areas very easily and had the organisational capacity to do it. We felt if we could win those three areas, we’d be proud.
“But to our surprise we found ourselves bombarded with requests from all over T&T to represent people and contest other corporations and it was difficult to turn down such requests. We’re stretched so thin, if you twanged ILP, you’d hear the highest note ever. We’ve literally worked day and night.”
Montano said as a result of being stretched so thin, the ILP had fallen down in organisation and screening in one or two seats. But he felt the party’s efforts so far had been “heroic” and the party had attracted a crowd of more than 20,000 at last Sunday’s launch. He said he had been campaigning in PNM areas and “PNM people under 50 are coming to us in droves. I also understand we’re attracting the under-50s in PP areas, but the over-50s aren’t shifting on both sides, it seems.
“So even with this San Juan issue, we’ll still take San Juan-Laventille, Sangre Grande, Diego Martin and Tunapuna, and we’re looking really good in Arima. We’re taking equally from both the PNM and PP, and the COP is truly dead.”
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