Fresh evidence presented to the Integrity Commission has prompted it to reopen an investigation into People’s National Movement Chief Whip Marlene McDonald.
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PNMites want change
People’s National Movement (PNM) leadership contender Pennelope Beckles-Robinson has hit out at a campaign of “bullying, intimidation and threatening” being waged by some quarters in the Opposition party’s internal election. She’s particularly expressed concern at criticisms levelled at her by PNM deputy leader Marlene McDonald at a Laventille West meeting in support of incumbent leader Dr Keith Rowley. “Just think of how Ms McDonald is speaking,” Beckles-Robinson said yesterday.
“This isn’t a campaign of bullying, threatening and intimidating people, but if you go to any of the constituencies, they’ll tell you this is how they’ve been operating. “They just don’t understand what democracy is about and the fact is they’re afraid of change and its consequences. But they need to wake up to the fact PNMites want change and this will take place, come May 18.”
Beckles-Robinson voiced concern yesterday after filing her nomination papers at the party’s headquarters at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, to contest the post of political leader against Rowley. Thirty-four contestants filed nominations to contest the May 18 internal elections. They include six independents, but at least two of the independents support Rowley.
Rowley is fielding a full slate for the 15 executive posts in contention, among them Port-of-Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee for treasurer and Diego Martin MP Colm Imbert for vice chairman. Beckles-Robinson’s side is fielding 13 candidates, including former senate president Danny Montano for chairman and former Sangre Grande corporation chairman/attorney Ronald Boynes (brother of ex-MP Roger Boynes) for general secretary. Beckles-Robinson said she would support whoever won the posts of treasurer and PRO.
A list issued by Balisier House after the exercise mixed up several names, Ashton Ford (incumbent general secretary on Rowley’s slate) confirmed. Some candidates from the Beckles-Robinson slate were wrongly listed on the Rowley slate and two independents were wrongly listed on Beckles-Robinson’s slate.
For yesterday’s nomination exercise, some of Rowley’s supporters, including pan players, arrived early in maxi taxis. They gathered to the west, on Cipriani Boulevard, and, singing When the Saints Go Marching In, paraded behind Rowley up Tranquillity Street to Balisier House at 11 am when he arrived to file his nomination.
A group of Beckles-Robinson’s supporters congregated east of Balisier House all morning, awaiting her arrival, which came at 12.50 pm after Rowley left. Her supporters applauded loudly as she entered.
Beckles-Robinson said she was looking forward to being the PNM’s next leader. But, asked about McDonald’s criticism, she said, “Ms McDonald is a little behind times. We’re no longer in the delegate system. It’s one-man-one-vote. Ms McDonald needs to understand she only has one vote. She has the right to criticise and choose whoever is capable and competent. “But she must remember we’re not in the delegate system. Democracy is about the right to choose and who’s best to run PNM.”
On McDonald’s criticism of Beckles-Robinson’s Women’s League leadership, Beckles-Robinson suggested, “Ask her how many league meetings she attended. “She’s not capable and competent to criticise on anything in relation to what happens in the League. “She attended one meeting, at my request. Other than that we’ve never seen her. So she’s not in a position to comment at all on how the League functions.”
On McDonald’s criticism of her parliamentary record, Beckles-Robinson said, “Yes? Really she should question her own. “My Senate contributions are on record for examination. She should also listen to the comments of Independent senators and other colleagues in respect of this. Talk is cheap.” Saying nevertheless that she would not be baited, Beckles-Robinson said win lose or draw, she would remain PNM after the elections.
“I have absolutely no reason whatsoever, whatever the outcome or consequences, to be part of any other political organisation save PNM.” Rowley had earlier said he felt very confident and the record of his team was such that unless “another team comes with a superior record and potential, I’m confident members will support us.” He said the election was turning out to be a great mobiliser for the PNM.
Ford said Rowley was nominated by John Joyce (vice chairman, Arima PNM), Cecile Beckles (Tobago), Abdon Mason (Pt Fortin), Sigler Jack (Diego Martin West) and Pulmattee Parasram (Central). Outgoing youth officer, MP Nileung Hypolite—who’s not contesting—said he supported Beckles-Robinson since she could bring unity to T&T and lead the PNM to a 2015 victory.