For the first time in its history, the PNM is in danger of losing its stronghold of Laventille. And the threat is coming from former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner's new Independent Liberal Party (ILP).The claim is coming from none other than ILP interim leader himself, Jack Warner.Warner told the T&T Guardian that, up to yesterday morning, he had a membership list of 106,000 people and the vast majority were from Laventille and San Juan/Barataria.
Warner was responding to questions from the Guardian on feedback from the ground in Laventille that constituents have gone green."Yes they have," he said confidently."The whole country has gone green. The ILP has a membership of 106,000 people. We have employed 32 persons to disaggregate the membership and the vast majority are from Laventille and San Juan/Barataria.
"Based on evidence, the support the ILP has from Laventille is astounding. I was told so by Lennox Smith (community activist) and did not really believe but when I saw the list..."Warner promised to reveal a breakdown of the ILP's membership list soon.Asked if the party will be campaigning in Laventille, he replied: "We will be starting from tomorrow in Tunapuna."
The ILP will launch its local government election campaign at Auzonville Park, Tunapuna, this evening.Warner's position was hotly disputed by Laventille West MP Nyleung Hypolite, who said he is not worried, that the PNM is poised, not only to retain Laventille, but win the upcoming local government and 2015 general elections.
Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox said she has been hearing some talk but assured Laventille East/Morvant is safe. She laughingly dismissed rumours among constituents that she, too, has gone green.Warner, in response, said: "Tell them Kamla said the same thing about Chaguanas West. If they haven't learnt anything from Chaguanas West, they have nothing to learn."
Some residents of Laventille West, in particular, who spoke to the T&T Guardian endorsed Warner's claim."The PNM in danger in Laventille. For the first time in history, the PNM will lose this seat. Laventille and the East-West Corridor gone green," one community activist and spokesman, who said he walks the length and breadth of Laventille, told the Guardian yesterday. "Everybody saying they gone green."
Representation is the issue
He said they are voting for the ILP for the same reasons the people of the former UNC stronghold of Chaguanas West booted out the Government in the July 29 by-election in a stunning defeat and joined the green brigade. The key issue is representation."We want proper representation. For years, Laventille voted for the PNM and is still underdeveloped. People are seeing Jack as an action man," he said.
"At one meeting in St Barbs, a matriarch, known as a diehard PNM, said she was fed up and was going by Jack to get membership forms to give out in Laventille."And, contrary to what some may think, Jack has "already put down some work in Laventille West," the activist said, requesting anonymity because of his job.He said when Warner was national security minister, he introduced several programmes in Laventille West through a community caravan and gang leaders thrashed out their differences.
"Whenever he came into the area and saw something the people wanted fixed, in two-twos work started on it. People in Snake Valley and St Barbs can tell you about this," he said."Plus, people in Laventille accustomed going down Chaguanas by Jack for help. He know the support he have here, too."The activist said residents, like those in Chaguanas West, do not care about corruption allegations hanging over Warner's head.
"In Laventille, fellas does be killing people and residents protect them because they feed them. Translate this to the politics. People accustomed with allegations in Laventille. They look up to people who help them as heroes, like Robin Hood."
Laventille West MP Nyleung Hypolite said he attends a constituency executive meeting every month and has not heard anyone threatening to go green."I have a constituency group meeting monthly and have heard none of this. I have a regular church service with residents of Beetham and have not heard any such thing," he said."People are talking to give out false information, misguide and mislead. Laventille West, I can proudly say, will stay PNM."
Hypolite said the same goes for Laventille East, Morvant, Port-of-Spain and other PNM seats on the East-West Corridor and throughout T&T."I am certain that in the 2015 general election the PNM will retain its 12 seats and even get more to form the government."On the contrary, he said he has been hearing people saying they want to join the PNM, including senators.He said the PNM election machinery has been pushed into high gear and councillors and MPs are walking in their constituencies daily.
"The PNM has completed the screening of 131 candidates who have been given a mandate to go on the field for one month."Candidates for Chinapoo/St Barbs, Success/Trou Macaque and Picton/Beetham are walking almost every single day. I myself have been walking."Hypolite predicted the PNM will win the local government elections, due by October 25, and the general election.
"The PNM will get a minimum of nine corporations in the local government elections and 30 seats in the general election."Asked if he has not heard people in Laventille talking about joining the ILP, he said, "Throughout T&T, that's all you are hearing."Hypolite dismissed this as temporary euphoria which will die down."People gone Warner crazy and talking about representation. I have been doing the same thing–paving roads and fixing drains in Laventille West.
"The ILP is like a storm. It will destroy a country and a village and then die away. The ILP has not presented one piece of policy or a constitution but people are running up and down the country in blind support," he said."Until they do that, I do not see the ILP as a challenge. As of now, the ILP is not a major challenge."Laventille West has 26,000 eligible voters and I don't expect all of them to vote for the PNM.
"I expect a small percentage to vote for the UNC, the COP and the ILP but I am not worried."
"People will talk," Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox said, as she laughed off rumours she plans to join the ILP.She said she has been hearing people talking about going green and confirmed that Warner did do some work in Laventille West when he was national security minister.Cox agreed with Hypolite, though, that while the ILP may get some support in Laventille, the PNM will retain the seat.
She said she has not heard anyone in her constituency talking about joining Warner's party."Maybe in Laventille West but not in Laventille East/Morvant."She expressed serious concerns about how people interpret representation."If people see Warner as somebody they can get something from, they will go that way. But a lot of MPs work hard to represent their constituencies but don't always get through," she said.
"I don't have money to dip my hand in my pocket as Warner. He has that advantage. I have to write letters, speak about it in Parliament. That is representation, too."Even if I am in Government, I still have to ask for it. Warner is lucky to have had personal resources and a portfolio (Works Minister) to do things in Chaguanas West."But that was one constituency. In the whole of Trinidad, it can't happen that way.
"People need to be educated on what is representation. I feel satisfied I represent my constituency. Up to yesterday I walked."
ILP interim chairman
ILP interim chairman Robin Montano endorsed Warner's claim."We are being inundated with applications to join the party but the figures are not in as yet and I can't say, definitively, that Laventille and the East-West Corridor have gone green."But, if one-tenth of what we are hearing is true, then MPs in those areas should have some sleepless nights."Told Hypolite and Cox are confident the PNM will retain their strongholds, Montano said, "What else do you expect them to say?"