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Arima rallies behind Penny in PNM tiff
Well known People’s National Movement (PNM) Arima stalwart and constituency executive officer, Bobby Charles, says PNM constituencies must be the ones to decide if they want lady vice chairman Pennelope Beckles-Robinson to contest the PNM leadership in 2014 or not. Charles made the comment as he came to the defence of Beckles-Robinson after she was criticised by some party quarters for her appearance at a United National Congress (UNC) curry duck function last weekend.
The situation has compounded speculation that Beckles-Robinson may challenge PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley for the leadership in next year’s internal election. She has not said an outright “no” on contesting and in fact was quoted earlier this week as saying she didn’t see “a problem with her contesting the leadership.”
Charles, who has been a PNMite for 45 years, was secretary of the PNM’s Arima unit for 23 years and is currently elections officer of the unit. He said he was the one who got Beckles-Robinson to join the PNM years ago. “Why is she being criticised for stopping at a function that happened to be held by the UNC?” Charles asked. “People don’t know how much of a community spirited person Penny is. She’ll be passing in her car and see people playing all fours, and stop and play a hand with them.
“Her Christmas parties fete every child from La Fillette to Blanchisseusse. When she was a child, her family would send her to market at 9 am and she’d come home 2 pm - she was so outgoing.” He added, “So if she stopped in when she saw an event at a venue owned by a PNMite (Vijay Ramlal) and it happened to be a UNC thing, she shouldn’t go in? Even though both sides argue in Parliament, when they adjourn to the (Parliament ) tearoom, everyone is cordial.
“That’s being civil. (Is it that) people have to be uncivilised if they’re in politics and not talk to each other. How would anything be worked out?” Dismissing “non-performance” allegations, Charles said Beckles-Robinson had co-ordinated PNM’s Arima local government candidates well enough to bring home all the Arima Borough Corporation seats and assist others to victory along the East-West corridor.
“She did so well that PNMites who’d parked up in 2010 voted again and even people who were COP members gave us their vote. She was the reason PNM did well in some corridor marginals. I’m the elections officer, I should know,” Charles said. He added, “I’m for peace in the party, so my view is constituencies should be the ones to say if they want Penny to contest the leadership or not, let the people say what they want.”
Beckles-Robinson was publicly lauded in a press advertisement this week by the “Friends of Arima” group. The group thanked Beckles-Robinson for her Senate contribution after she was axed from the Upper House by Rowley last week. Fitzgerald Hinds, who was also removed, was reappointed this week to fill in for Faris al Rawi, who went to South Africa with Rowley for the Nelson Mandela memorial.
Contacted on the ad campaign, Barbara Ryan, a member of PNM’s Arima executive, said the executive had nothing to do with the ad. Rather, she said it was placed by people whose lives Beckles-Robinson had touched.
Ryan said, “It was done by various people and small businesses in and around Arima proper, Pinto Road, Santa Rosa, Wallerfield and other nearby areas in the corridor who recognise her value and the work she has been doing, and who clearly felt hurt at the way she was treated. It is my understanding this was their way of saying ‘thank you’ to her and expressing their support for her. It’s an indication of the love people have for her.”
However, chairman of PNM’s Arima unit, Cagney Cassimire, distanced himself from the “Friends of Arima” ad, saying his unit wasn’t involved and didn’t know who did it.
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