Penny is Lady Vice Chairman
By Sasha Harrinanan Monday, October 29 2012
Newly-elected Lady Vice Chairman of the People’s National Movement (PNM), Senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, has two main goals — ensuring the Women’s League is “in a state of readiness” for all upcoming elections, and taking a more proactive approach to dealing with “women’s issues”.
Newsday caught up with a smiling Beckles-Robinson yesterday evening, as she chipped along in the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain to music by the Roy Cape All Stars band. “I’m very happy, excited. Looking forward to serving in a new capacity, working with the Political Leader, Dr Rowley, and the other members of the General Council to get the Women’s League in a state of readiness, so that our members can ensure the party itself is in a state of readiness for Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections, Local Government Elections and general elections in 2015,” Beckles-Robinson stated.
As Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate and former Cabinet member under the Patrick Manning administration, Beckles-Robinson has years of experience on which to draw from in this area.
Her victory over incumbent Lady Vice Chairman, Donna Cox, during the election of officers at the PNM’s 44th Annual Convention yesterday was a decisive one — Beckles-Robinson secured 356 votes while her opponent garnered 239. There were 12 positions on the ballot yesterday but only six were contested (see box). There was much interest in the outcome of voting for Lady Vice Chairman and for Youth Officer (Male). Voting took place between 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm yesterday in two rooms located beneath the seats of the Grand Stand. As delegates approached the polling stations, they had to pass Beckles-Robinson and the incumbent, Cox, who stood within arms-length of each other by the corridor that lead to the polling stations.
Cox was seen giving out mugs and bookmarks to some delegates; each mug was cream in colour with the words “VOTE Donna Cox Lady Vice Chairman” on the front and “Continuing to the next level...NO EXCHANGE” on the back.
However that wasn’t enough to sway the majority of delegates, some of whom received flyers with a photo of Beckles-Robinson in a grey pants-suit with the following words: “It’s about time...Vote for ME Penny Lady Vice Chairman of the PNM. Support substance and truth. Support a new meaning to empowerment and equality.” Although Beckles-Robinson beat Cox by 117 votes, it was a much closer battle between incumbent Youth Officer (Male), NiLeung Hypolite and one of his three challengers — outgoing Education Officer, Neil Parsanlal. Hypolite secured 214 votes while Parsanlal got 206, a difference of eight votes.
The incumbents in all four Deputy Political Leader posts were re-appointed yesterday evening by Rowley following the announcement of the election results:
1) Orville London — Tobago Affairs;
2) Rohan Sinanan — Policy;
3) Joan Yuille-Williams — Party and Elections; and
4) Marlene McDonald - Legislative Matters.
Also, the 44th Annual Convention of the People’s National Movement (PNM) may very well have been the last time the party used the delegate system to elect officers.
That’s because the one-man, one-vote system will be debated and put to a vote at a special convention scheduled for December 2.
Ordinary party members aren’t the only ones looking forward to the change to a one-man, one-vote system. At least two candidates in yesterday’s election of officers were in favour of the change, telling Newsday it would make for a much more democratic process to have one vote per party member, rather than representational voting by delegates from each constituency. Cox said “I’m standing for re-election based on my performance and my commitment to service, not on popularity. That’s why the one-man, one-vote system is so important, because it would put an end to constituency leaders telling delegates who to vote for.”
Cox explained that under the delegate system, the popularity of some candidates standing for election has led to constituency leaders telling their delegates to vote for a particular candidate even though the other candidate/s record may be better. Hence her support for a change in how the PNM votes at future annual conventions.
Beckles-Robinson expressed similar sentiments while speaking to Newsday about the issue. “Clearly people want the option to cast their individual ballots. You see the voters coming out in their numbers today so it’s exciting to be a part of the election. I’m enjoying it. One-man, one-vote is sure to strengthen the party”.