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PNM secretary: Penny still has future in party
Time will tell. That was one of several views from Team Rowley members on how effective the healing process in the PNM will be after the recent internal election. The recent campaign has been viewed as acrimonious by some. Several sharp exchanges from the platform occurred, not only between Team Rowley and Team Penny members but also involving Independent candidates, such as Mariano Browne. Contacted on defeated leadership challenger Pennelope Beckles-Robinson’s future in the party, PNM general secretary Ashton Ford of Team Rowley said: “Of course she has a future. She is a member of sedx the PNM. Dr Rowley made it clear when he spoke after (results) that he will be working with all party members in the PNM.”
Asked how effective the healing process will be following the level of acrimony in the campaign, Ford said: “Time will tell. We will have to wait and see but I stand by my leader when he says the party is open for every member.” PNM deputy leader Marlene McDonald, who led several attacks during the campaign, said: “It was all simply friendly political banter and we accept it for what it is. “But we are one PNM and one people and we don’t have a problem. At the end of the day we all have our responsibilities to T&T and we will perform our duties as we see fit.”
McDonald added: “I particularly thank my Port-of-Spain South constituency for supporting Dr Rowley the way they did. The numbers could have been greater but for obvious reason not all of them could have come out. “I am satisfied they made the contribution necessary for Dr Rowley to get his mandate. “Constituents heard my message and acceded to my request. Despite that there was support for others but that support only resulted in 25 votes for the other side from Port-of-Spain South. Still, we are all in this together in PNM.”
PNM chairman Franklin Khan, saying Rowley had made it clear he had worked with all PNM members, added: “As of Sunday night there is no longer any Team Rowley or Team Penny. It’s only one team now, the PNM. “There was never any great animosity in the party for the campaign. I think everyone’s focused on the general election, so let’s put our plans in place.” He said he did not think it had been a bruising battle. “We had concerns about the voting list, as they did, but they had more,” he said. Asked what role Beckles-Robinson and/or her team members and supporters might be given, Khan said: “I don’t want to go there yet. “The results show there is lots of room in PNM for everyone. There are a lot of General Council and Central Executive sub -committees. “We have standing committees in many areas and she and her team members can contribute. We are willing to have anyone who will work hard and put in ‘sweat equity.’” This may be examined when the Central Executive holds its next meeting in the first week of next month.
Neither Khan nor Ford could confirm if there would be any get-together of the two teams as a possible kick-start to the healing process. Yesterday, Team Penny’s Bose Sharma said the group, To Preserve the Balisier, which had backed Beckles-Robinson, would continue to function as a watchdog for integrity and ethics in politics. On its team’s defeat, Sharma added: “Penny’s message obviously didn’t resonate with a hardcore sector in the party whose minds were clearly made up to give Keith a chance to lead the PNM into a general election.”
Dumas: Heal the wounds
In T&T’s interest, the PNM should make an effort to heal wounds inflicted by the recent internal election if the party wishes to give the impression of being a democratic organisation, says former public service head Reginald Dumas.
He added: “I expected Team Rowley to win, no surprise there.
“The question is, what now? I will not like a situation where Pennelope Beckles-Robinson and her people are shunted aside.
“But I don’t know what venom might be playing. I did see leader Rowley say the party would not ‘go there’ when Franklin Khan spoke about bringing Mariano Browne before the disciplinary committee for Browne’s statements at the time. It’s a good sign. “But it’s obvious there are rifts within PNM, not only with Penny. There was a very public spat between Mariano and the leadership. Browne basically told Rowley ’don’t try that.’
“That’s just one example, so the question is what will Rowley do to heal rifts in the PNM?”
Dumas added: “Also what will he do to persuade people he is not as rough as he comes across?
“Many people have said ‘calm down, get a softer image. You can criticise and attack but it makes people believe what Patrick Manning said about you was correct, that you are a raging bull.’”
Dumas said it was also time for the PNM to start detailing its plans and policies for government beyond attacking the Government, so the public could examine its plans and decide on it.
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said healing would depend on how Rowley decided to treat with Beckles-Robinson and all the controversial public exchanges of the campaign had to be dealt with. He added: “The PNM remains a good threat to the PP but the challenge is Rowley will have to use his time to strengthen his base and take it from there. “He has a lot of work to do within the party as he prepares for a general election as the voter turnout was as low as 20 per cent. “We can speculate on if people might have felt he would win and just did not bother to go vote or maybe they were not enthused by voting.”