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Penny supporters get green light to register
Excluded PNM voters have gotten a green light. The PNM’s elections commission has agreed to allow an estimated 7,000 supporters of leadership challenger Pennelope Beckles-Robinson to register to vote in PNM’s internal poll after their names were recently excluded from the preliminary voting list.
PNM elections commission vice chairman Murchison Browne confirmed the situation after a meeting Thursday night with members of Team Penny on the various concerns the challengers have. Thursday was initially the deadline for finalisation of registration issues. This has been extended to Monday. Browne and a legal representative met members of Beckles-Robinson’s team including MP Nileung Hypolite and Ronald Boynes.
The commission also agreed to recommend that incumbent general secretary Ashton Ford should halt performing functions pertaining to the election issue such as reinstatement of the names excluded from the preliminary voting list. Hypolite said at Thursday’s meeting the group appealed for the 7,000 members excluded from the list—due to alleged irregularities according to party executive officials—to be allowed to regularise their positions.
The preliminary list of 79,363 voters was approved at a recent General Council where some PNM officials complained of irregularities in voters’ registration. The final voting list has to be ready by April 30. After the meeting with Team Penny officials, Browne said yesterday, those whose names were not on the list could come in and check the list and regularise their status, up to Monday. Once this is done and they meet all criteria, they would be on the final list. He said several people had already started coming in yesterday.
Browne said the commission meets again today to examine other issues and recommendations and see how best to reach solutions for all concerned. Team Penny member Boynes told T&T Guardian the commission agreed to ensure procedures so that the general secretary could reinstate those names that were rejected or left out.
Boynes said the group will also write the general secretary of the development. But he said the group made it clear to Browne that they did not want general secretary Ford to handle any reinstatement of the 7,000 who were left out of the list. He said the commission said they would recommend that he does not perform any function like that. Boynes said the group had concerns about all the incumbent officers being involved in the election exercise, but the most critical one was Ford.
He said his group took the opportunity to express concerns about their view that two members of the commission have been campaigning for the slate of incumbent leader Keith Rowley. He said the commission also agreed to address that. Boynes said the commission agreed to respond to all letters sent to them. Hypolite said Team Penny also asked for a copy of the electoral list to be sent to all candidates—incumbent, challengers, independents.
He said the group also appealed for the incumbent officers who are contesting posts not to handle election issues, although the General Council recently ruled that all party officers remain in posts until election day. Hypolite said PNM general secretary Ford for instance shouldn’t be making decisions or pronouncements on the election or issuing things for units.
Hypolite said while the group has no issue with people or councillors endorsing contestants, they want units and party executives to refrain from what has been occurring in recent weeks—publicly endorsing people and lobbying on that basis. Team Penny is also monitoring other issues including a limited number of voting stations in some districts like Sangre Grande which has only one. Ford didn’t answer calls yesterday.