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Penny to take on Rowley
Former Opposition Senator and chairperson of the PNM’s Women’s League Penny Beckles-Robinson is expected to announce this week her decision to challenge party leader Dr Keith Rowley in the May 18 national executive elections. Sources close to Beckles-Robinson said the former Arima MP was hoping to make the announcement at party headquarters, Balisier House, Port-of-Spain. Beckles-Robinson told a function,hosted by the league in Couva at the weekend, that time was coming for the 58-year-old party to have a woman leader. Sources said that was the strongest hint so far of her intention to lead the PNM.
Two Saturday’s ago, party chairman Franklin Khan announced the date for the internal elections after a special meeting of the General Council. Rowley already has started his re-election campaign during visits to constituencies across the country. He is scheduled to be at the Fyzabad Community Centre tomorrow. A pressure group within the party, called “To Preserve the Balisier” (TPTB), also has been meeting party members. It launched its campaign at Pinto Road Community Centre, Arima, last month. Rowley said in December that the decision to revoke the senatorial appointments of Beckles-Robinson and Fitzgerald Hinds was part of the party’s strategy to prepare for the 2015 general election. He did not elaborate. Beckles, the lady vice-chairman of the party, said then that she remained a member of the PNM and was committed to working in its best interest.
Sources said yesterday that Beckles-Robinson had remained loyal to the PNM in the wake of removal from the Senate, which was unlike what happened in 2008 when Rowley was fired by then Prime Minister Patrick Manning as the Trade and Industry Minister. They said Rowley launched an anti-Manning campaign, which led to the defeat of the party in the May 2010 general election.
At the Women’s League function on Sunday, Beckles-Robinson praised former leaders of the PNM — Dr Eric Williams, George Chambers, Patrick Manning and the incumbent Rowley — for their respective roles in advancing the party. She insisted that despite their contributions to building the PNM “changes are coming faster and faster and that poses real challenge to the PNM in 2014.” She noted that women were the strength of the party and it should not be divided but become stronger.