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PNM leadership race heats up
As the race for political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) heats up, fresh conflict and race allegations are causing a sharp rift in the membership. Penelope Beckles-Robinson, who recently got the axe as a senator, confirmed only on Friday that she had leadership aspirations, and already the two factions of supporters are adding to the tension within the PNM camp. The Sunday Guardian understands that party leader Dr Keith Rowley will face a Beckles-Robinson-led slate that includes former Senate president Danny Montano and MP for Diego Martin Central Amery Browne, who intend to contest the posts of chairman and general secretary, respectively. While in a surprise move the PNM women’s league has thrown their support behind Rowley.
In a telephone interview on Friday, group vice chair Irene Hinds boldly stated that Rowley had her vote. The Sunday Guardian was told that the women’s league met to discuss the upcoming elections late on Thursday night, and came away with a unanimous decision to support Rowley. Hinds said she could not discuss internal party business but confirmed that she and the majority of the women’s league planned to vote for Rowley on May 18. “I have one vote and Dr Rowley has it. I can also say that for the majority of the members of the women’s league,” she said. “I am positively voting for and devoted to Dr Rowley as the leader of the PNM,” she said.
Rowley labelled the ‘next Mugabe’
Other party members have described a bitter and no-holds-barred smear campaign brewing between Rowley supporters and those backing Beckles-Robinson. Weeks before the official nominee deadline, another longtime financier of former leader Patrick Manning has returned to the PNM fold, throwing his support behind Beckles-Robinson, and has voiced a concern that Rowley would be the “next (Zimbabwe president Robert) Mugabe” if he won the election. Sunday Guardian learned that one of the party’s former financiers said if Rowley won the internal election, he would “leave the country.” “He said Rowley would be just like Mugabe and that (East) Indians will lose what they have and will be made to eat grass,” one insider said.
The source said the names of three long-standing and high-ranking East Indian PNM supporters—former Health minister Jerry Narace, Errol Mahabir and Lenny Saith’s—were called in that rant.
The former financier claimed those three were used by the PNM. But with the race card being dealt as the PNM prepares for new internal elections, an old batch of PNM supporters and financial backers have returned to roost under the Beckles-Robinson banner. Party members and Manning supporters who were said to have “fled under the Rowley administration” have returned to the party after Beckles-Robinson secretly announced she was contesting the leadership. The Sunday Guardian understands that a Beckles-Robinson supporter has been sending messages to Rowley through various colleagues, announcing his game plan to return to the executive of the party, even from behind the scenes. “He said he was coming back to beat Rowley to a frazzle,” one Rowley supporter said.
Narace: I’m not Penny’s campaign manager
Narace, sources said, is Beckles-Robinson’s campaign manager. In a telephone interview with the Sunday Guardian on Thursday, Narace said, “I am not her campaign manager. In fact I do not know if she has declared her hand.” When asked if he was affiliated with her bid to become leader, Narace repeated his first statement then added: “If and when I have something to tell you, I will call you and tell you.” Beckles-Robinson on Friday met with Rowley at the Parliament building to officially inform him she will be challenging him for leadership.