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PNM campaign starts January 6

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Penny may not be Rowley’s only challenger
Camille Robinson-Regis

Rules for the People’s National Movement’s leadership election, currently in draft form, will be ready early in the new year and party campaigning for the internal election is expected to begin in the first week of January, PNM vice-chairman Camille Robinson-Regis said yesterday. She made the comment in response to questions on why the rules were not presented at last Saturday’s general council meeting after chairman Franklin Khan said the rules would have been released then.



Robinson-Regis said the elections team, headed by Brigid Annisette-George, was far advanced on the task, though aspects of the rules still needed clearing up. When completed it will be seen by the leadership and council, she added. She was reported last Sunday as saying the party was expected to begin campaign walkabouts for the internal poll from January 6. 


PNM executive officials yesterday said a draft schedule of constituency walkabouts by incumbent leader Dr Keith Rowley begins from that date and in places where Rowley had not been on walkabouts. Tentative tour dates between January 6-14 are in Port-of-Spain South, Toco/Sangre Grande, D’abadie/O’Meara, San Fernando East and Diego Martin North/East.


Yesterday, Dr Bose Sharma, of the To Preserve the Balisier group, said since the rules—or any date for the internal poll—were not forthcoming as expected last Saturday, the group would await that before announcing its challenger for the elections. Sharma added: “Since no arrangements were announced, there is no vacancy. Therefore it does not make sense to announce currently, because it may be seen by some quarters as power-grabbing.”


Sharma said he was already being accused by some PNMites of “trying to split” the PNM, following statements about the group’s intended leadership challenger. “That indicates how removed some are from PNM’s real situation,” he said. He added: “No one wants to split the party. In fact, many want to broaden it and make it more open. A healthy, democratic leadership contest is a way towards that. 


“To attract the 20 per cent floating vote for the general election, PNM must be open, transparent and accommodate a wide range of views comfortably. If it remains in an old form that mitigates against this, which opposition to a healthy leadership contest will ensure, it can’t progress.”


At last Saturday’s general council meeting, approximately seven people also voiced concerns about the appearance at a curry-duck lime, where United National Congress (UNC) officials were present, of PNM lady vice-chairman Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, who is tipped as a possible leadership challenger, PNM officials said. 


After the concerns were aired, they said Beckles-Robinson delivered a strong rebuttal, saying other PNM officials had attended functions held by past or present UNC officials and vice versa, adding she had not appeared on anyone’s platform and the lime was not a political event. Beckles-Robinson also questioned the negative focus on her, saying she felt it had resulted from her recent statement that she might consider contesting the leadership if there was a vacancy and if there was support for her, they added.


Officials said Rowley did not comment, save to say time was too short electorally to be concerned with trivialities, nor did he address concerns about appointing defeated by-election candidate Avinash Singh to the Senate.


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