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Place all 7,000 PNMites to the voting list! That’s the negotiating position of supporters of PNM leadership challenger Pennelope Beckles-Robinson who is expected to meet today with PNM’s election commission to discuss the 7,000 applicants rejected from the preliminary voting list for PNM’s May 18 internal poll. The position of the Beckles-Robinson’s team was outlined yesterday by supporter Dr Bhose Sharma.
Last week, the Beckles-Robinson team said out of its 8,000 registrations, about 7,000 were being rejected following complaints of irregularities. PNM general secretary Ashton Ford, who is contesting a post on the team of incumbent leader Dr Keith Rowley, had detailed some irregularities. The 7,000 were left out of the preliminary list sanctioned by PNM’s general council last week.
Commission vice chairman Murchison Browne subsequently stated the preliminary list was 79,363 and voters had until tomorrow to iron out flaws and errors before a final list is done on April 30. But the Beckles-Robinson team said it was insufficient time to deal with all applicants and appealed to the commission to consider the situation
Browne at the time had said there was no complaint before the commission. Marva Bellamy-Bostic of the challenging’s team, says she wrote the commission since March 31 seeking clarification on various aspects of the election and received reply from an official. Attorney Roger Boynes, of the challenger’s team, also wrote the commission a few days ago on the specific issue of rejection of voting applicants. It was subsequently agreed for the commission to meet the Beckles-Robinson team to look over the rejection issue.
Balisier House’s secretariat said commission chairman Charles Mitchell wasn’t in T&T. Browne didn’t answer calls. Sharma said the commission seemed to accept that some errors had been made. He, however, said the challenging team is sticking to its request that all 7,000 rejected applicants be reinstated on the final list.
He added: “If corrections need to be made, the team should allow people to come in and correct them. After all the fumbling that has transpired, this will be our final attempt to have faith in the commission and if improperly resolved, it will only lead people to believe that mishandling of the situation by those in charge will result in the possibility that the incumbent will win.”
Sharma said a PNM representative from Diego Martin West said on a radio station yesterday that they had sent in forms with errors and they had been called in to fix the errors. He added, “But we weren’t given the opportunity to fix the issues where rejected applicants were concerned. If one was elected to lead on the basis of such questionable situation, you cannot put yourself up for prime minister of a country,” he added.
Sharma added, “We’ll also be calling on the commission to fully take charge of running the election and to instruct the incumbent officers to stand down from running the party election or party affairs as they’re doing now. This is an aspect the incumbent executive clearly didn’t think out when instituting the one-man-one-vote idea and it doesn’t mesh with democratic systems.”
“The commission should run the election fully and appoint an interim team to run the party while those incumbent officers contesting posts should go about campaigning and remove themselves from party and poll affairs. The commission should particularly appoint a spokesman for the election and not allow Ashton Ford to continue talking for them or the party. That doesn’t lend itself to preception of a fair, unbiased situation.”
He accused a PNM official of cancelling some applications—sent via forms—deeming them to be Beckles-Robinson supporters. Alleging the incumbent team was manipulating the process to win and tainting the perception of the commission’s image Sharma said Beckles- Robinson had spoken out about rejection of the voters in last week’s general council and several of her supporters there had abstained from voting on the issue since they realised they would be outvoted.