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Penny at public forum: Media about bacchanal not my plans

Thursday, March 20, 2014
Former PNM senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson at yesterday’s forum at UWI, St Augustine. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

Candidate for the post of leader of the PNM in the May 18 national executive elections Pennelope Beckles-Robinson says the media are not interested in her programmes and policies but bacchanal. She said that during yesterday’s public forum on the topic: Women and Political Power: A Right to Lead. It was hosted by the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the Centre for Language Learning, UWI, St Augustine.



Asked to speak before the conclusion of the forum Beckles-Robinson said her move to contest the election was a courageous one. She said citizens did not like change. She  said she had heard people saying they were not hearing about her issues and policies. In explaining, she said: “The truth is the media does not cover you when you talk about policy.”


She said she was waiting to see what was published after her meeting on Tuesday night, when she dealt at length with her programmes and policies and spoke for almost an hour-and-a-half about health care, women issues, gender, crime, housing, youth and unemployment. “I don’t know that they are going to say anything. That is not what is going to sell the newspapers,” she added. The former MP and senator said all the media reports would be about the bacchanal, the banter and the mudslinging. 


“It appears as though policies are not what they (media) want to report about,” Beckles-Robinson added. She said a different avenue must be found to get her message across to the public and she would present a document on her policies at the appropriate time. Lecturer in education at the St Augustine Campus of the West Indies Dr Winsford James wants to know why there were so few women in Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s huge Cabinet. 


James, a political analyst, also asked: 
• Is it that there is a male cabal around her that calls the shots and says no?
• Is it that there are women who are not qualified?
• How could that be ?



He noted that the education system, over the past several years, had thrown out far more women with higher degrees than men. He said it was probably the result of “some kind of social bias, a reverse social bias.” James said in many countries women were leading and based on the trend in the future women would overtake men. “That is already happening... it is happening in the education system,” he said, “as there are far more female teachers than men.”


That would inevitably lead to women’s dominance, he added, and there might even be a female president. James also spoke about the upcoming PNM national executive elections, saying the most strident voices against Beckles-Robinson, who is challenging the incumbent Dr Keith Rowley for leadership of the 58-year-old-party, were women not men. 


He said their objection was not because of her gender but the timing of her intervention and those who oppose Beckles-Robinson did so because her intervention might split and divide the party. James said the anti-Penny move may not be emanating from the women but “the men who were using women as the front rather than Rowley himself and his male henchmen.” 



Director of the Lloyd Best Institute Sunity Maharaj, in her presentation, said there was need to overhaul the entire system as every major breakthrough made in the past had not met the required expectations. 


She said the country had a black Prime Minister, a Tobagonian prime minister and a woman prime minister but she could not think of “one who I would not consider a tragic figure.” Maharaj said all of those leaders were among the country’s best and brightest citizens and the problem was what they came up against: The system. She said there was a powerful role for women to engage in the transformation process.


Other panellists were T&T Guardian columnist and UWI lecturer Dr Gabrielle Hosein and UWI lecturer Paula Morgan. The forum was chaired by UWI lecturer and political analyst Dr Indira Rampersad.


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