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I rejected two resignations over PNM’s vote on PR—Rowley
PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley says he rejected the resignation of two Opposition senators last year over the party’s failure to vote against legislation to introduce a system of proportional representation for the local government elections last year. Rowley said that during his address to a meeting in support of his slate of candidates for the May 18 national executive elections of the party.
It was in October 2013, during the Senate debate on the legislation, that the Opposition in the Senate, then led by Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, did not vote against the measure. Rowley has maintained the party’s objection to the system. Speaking to hundreds of supporters at St Columbia’s Anglican Church, Barataria, Rowley said: “To my shock and embarrassment, the record of Parliament will show that the PNM did not cast a vote against proportional representation.”
In response to a question from a member of the crowd, Rowley said the matter was brought to the general council of the party “for serious treatment, and I intervened and had discussions stopped, for good reason.” He added: “So serious was this matter that the following day I received two resignations from the Senate.” Rowley said when the members realised what had happened and what the record showed, “two members in the Senate, separately and individually, wrote me their resignation.”
He identified them as Fitzgerald Hinds and Terrence Deyalsingh, saying they tendered their resignations on principle and accepted responsibility for the party’s failure to register its vote against the measure. Rowley said the no vote was a debacle for the country’s oldest political party. He did not accept Hinds and Deyalsingh’s resignations, but “took careful note and the ultimate responsibility for that too.”
Rowley said while he had friends on all sides of the House those friendships would never make him compromise his integrity as a leader and he was in nobody’s pocket. In an obvious reference to Beckles-Robinson, who is seeking to unseat him, Rowley said in order to lead the PNM a candidate must be “prepared to be in an uncompromising position.” He launched an attack on moves to amend the Constitution to allow for a system of proportional election to be introduced in the next general election, due by May 2015.
He said he changed his position on not leading slates for the election because it was being held under a new system of one-man one-vote and also because it was being held months before a general election. It was important that the PNM elected the best team, he said, because that would be the team to lead the party back to governance in 2015, so while the election was internal,it had a national consequence for citizens.
The People’s Partnership Government must be engaged radically, said Rowley, and he was the man who could confront them and get them out of office. He said the Constitution Commission, chaired by Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, was engaged in a nebulous exercise. Rowley campaign bandwagon rolled into La Horquetta last night.