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An undercurrent of dissent within the People’s National Movement (PNM) has been strengthened after leader Dr Keith Rowley’s surprise hatchet took out two long-time senators, Pennelope Beckles-Robinson and Fitzgerald Hinds. And now an “alliance” against Rowley is creating rumblings within the party after his latest move. While the discord had simmered quietly since Rowley took the helm of the party, Beckles-Robinson’s dismissal as a senator last week, stirred the pot once more.
The Sunday Guardian was told that the alliance supporting Beckles-Robinson (for now) includes the women’s and youth arms of the party, members of constituencies and supporters of former PNM leader Patrick Manning. The remaining Manning supporters, old school PNM as they call themselves, said they were being sidelined by Rowley as he attempts to revamp the party and bring in new blood.
They gave eight names of high-ranking PNM supporters disenchanted with the Rowley regime, two of whom have “deep pockets” and are waiting in the wings to see how the leadership race plays out before they step forward. Until the date for the internal elections are called, they are content to wait and watch how this clash unfolds.
Members of the alliance against Rowley, which includes leading figures in various constituencies, have begun quietly lobbying for other members to add their support. They have, however, been doing it in a sober manner, adhering to the level of discipline existing within the party.
Hinds promised Laventille East/Morvant?
Sources, speaking with the Sunday Guardian on Tuesday and again on Thursday, said Hinds’ dismissal was part of a strategic plan hashed between the two to soften the blow against Beckles-Robinson in the public’s eye. Hinds, the sources said, has since boasted that he was promised a meatier position and agreed to be part of the collateral damage.
Sources, who did not want to be named for fear of internal victimisation, said Hinds has been promised the Laventille East/Morvant seat which he held up until 2007. He was axed by Manning and replaced with Donna Cox.
Rowley vs Beckles-Robinson vs...
As it stands in the PNM, there is one group backing Beckles-Robinson for leadership and another backing Rowley. Some of the anti-Rowley members also said they would be willing to back a third leadership contender as long as Rowley did not remain at the helm. Rowley supporters have described Beckles-Robinson as a “non-performer” and was weary of her colluding with another party in order to undermine the Rowley leadership.
Those supporting Beckles-Robinson or any other suitable contender willing to come forward, cite Rowley’s behaviour as chief among their reasons to pit their vote against him. They said that while he has attempted to soften his image, the public relations stunt did not overhaul his attitude. But Rowley supporters, again refusing to be named, have dismissed Beckles-Robinson’s leadership contest and said that a Beckles-Robinson win will equal a coalition with the Independent Liberal Party.
They repeated that it was rumours of close talks between ILP leader Jack Warner and Beckles-Robinson that raised red flags at Balisier House as the St Joseph by-election campaigning wrapped up in November.
Warner not ruling out a coalition
In a brief telephone interview last week, Warner once again praised Beckles-Robinson’s political acumen. He described her as “intelligent, consistent and way above the pack of the PNM.” He said while he had not discussed the possibility of a coalition between a Beckles-Robinson-led PNM and the ILP with his party members, he did not rule it out. “What I do know is that Penny as leader, any number can play,” Warner said.
Rowley supporters: It’s political mischief
Rowley supporters said they were not surprised by that possibility and even named two other people, who they deemed “government agents” seeking to undermine the growing strength of the PNM. “You hear it on government radio stations, men who have no standing or say in the PNM supporting Penny over Rowley. You have to ask why? Who has the most to gain?” one man asked. He accused the dissenters of “political mischief” and said that both they and the government agents were “trying very hard to make the PNM look bad.”
“They are trying to create an image of disharmony in the PNM. There is not a grand alliance in the PNM, there is a grand alliance against the PNM,” one Rowley supporter said.
No comment from Rowley, Beckles-Robinson, Hinds
The Sunday Guardian attempted to reach Beckles-Robinson, Rowley and Hinds from Tuesday to Friday with no success. Requests for interviews and questions were texted to all three without reply.
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