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Ryan: Penny jumped starter’s gun

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is the PNM’s replacement of Senators Pennelope Beckles-Robinson and Fitzgerald Hinds an election strategy? “That’s the purpose of the game,” political scientist Dr Selwyn Ryan told the T&T Guardian yesterday in response to questions. As to whether it will be a successful strategy, Ryan said only time would tell but he found there were “some questionable appointments.” 


“I don’t know the people very well, except Camille Robinson-Regis,” he added. Ryan was referring to defeated Chaguanas West PNM candidate Avinash Singh and former TV6 news presenter Dianne Baldeo-Chadeesingh. Asked to respond to rumours that Beckles-Robinson was removed by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley because she was a potential opponent in the party’s upcoming internal elections, he said: “I don’t think she handled it very well. She jumped the starter’s gun.”


Political commentator Michael Harris also said he did not know “who these people are” and had no clue whether it would be a good election strategy. He said the PNM’s senatorial changes were not an earth-shattering matter and would not affect supporters’ loyalty nor have any significant impact on non-supporters. Harris said he doubted whether the two newcomers would improve the PNM’s chances in the 2015 general election, since the party had weightier matters with which to deal.


While appointing young East Indians might be an attempt to give the PNM a new face, he said, it was not a new strategy. “There have always been Indians in the PNM and it has not made a difference in how people perceive the party,” he said. Harris felt the removal of Beckles-Robinson was a normal political move since she was viewed as an opponent.


Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said it was a clear strategy to entice a wider and younger group but had concerns about the appointment of Singh, as it was PNM policy that “there are no jobs for the boys” and no political appointments for defeated candidates. He said Singh’s appointment went against that train of thought. He did not believe the groups Rowley was allegedly targeting would respond in any significant way to the senatorial appointments.


Political scientist Dr Indira Rampersad said Rowley was certainly trying to “broadbase” the party with the two new faces but she did not think it would determine votes in 2015. “The PNM always had a smattering of Indians but remains an Afro-based party,” she said. She described appointing Robinson-Regis as “revisiting the archives” of the PNM even though she was a developed politician.


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