VOTERS' LIST FAVOURS ROWLEY
Sunday, April 20 2014
MEMBERS of the slate of PNM political leader candidate Penny Beckles-Robinson yesterday gave a deadline of 4pm tomorrow for full disclosure of the complete PNM voters list, as they alleged “a plan to frustrate the democratic process” in favour of the incumbent Dr Keith Rowley as well as incompetence in the administration of the party’s poll.
A press conference was held on the issue at the Sackville Street, Port-of-Spain law offices of attorney Ronald Boynes, the candidate for general secretary on the Beckles-Robinson slate.
In attendance were other candidates, including: Danny Montano (chairman); Cagney Casimire (vice-chairman); Marva Bellamy-Bostic (lady vice-chairman); and Nileung Hypolite, logistics coordinator.
Boynes criticised the decision taken by the party – led by Rowley – to call elections on the one man one vote system before the voters list was finalised. He stated it was an “inevitable conclusion” that the process was being undermined.
“Over the past 50 years, all internal elections that were held were done after the membership lists were approved,” Boynes said. “However, under Dr Rowley’s leadership, an election was called, campaigning was being conducted and the membership lists were simultaneously being amended, deleted and changed by those offering themselves as candidates.”
He stated, “This suggests, and the inevitable conclusion is, is there is a plan afoot to frustrate the democratic process within the party.” He said the election was a critical one.
In immediate response, the PNM general secretary Ashton Ford – who is contesting the elections – said the allegations were “strange” since all party decisions had been taken in the presence of Beckles-Robsinson. He accused that slate of making “that excuse from day one”. Boynes said the election was a critical one.
“This election is a critical one, not only for the party but also for the country as a whole. The PNM’s choice of leader will directly impact its ability to win against the incumbent in the 2015 general election,” Boynes said. He criticised the fact that the current PNM general secretary Ashton Ford was involved in the processes relating to the determination of a final list of voters, according to recent newspaper reports.
“It is crucial therefore that the PNM’s internal processes be absolutely transparent, fair and just. Candidates contesting the election cannot have any responsibility for the distribution of forms and the determination of new members during the election campaign,” Boynes said. “Clearly, these types of conduct have been perpetuated by our colleagues on the opposite side.” He alleged flouting of the rules.
“Today, barely a month before the election, it is clear that the rules are being flouted and the processes ignored,” Boynes said. “Team Penny demands that the party revert to the proper procedure and rules in adherence with the PNM’s constitution and rules established for the governing of these elections.”
Boynes continued, “The withholding of the list from legitimate, bona fide candidates is inconsistent with the principle of one man, one vote,” he said. “Portions of the list are available in some offices. But we hereby call for the immediate provision of the full and complete list of members eligible to vote in the PNM May 18 internal elections. This list should be made available in both hard copy and soft copy and, in addition to providing names, must also include contact information for each member listed.”
Montano said there is a preliminary list in the possession of the other side.
“Anybody who has that list has an advantage,” he said. “Clearly the other side has it and we don’t.”
Casimire said, “this is the most inefficient, ineffective management system I have seen. Why was this not thought out properly?” While it has been reported that 7,000 applicants have been rejected, Casimire suggested the figure could be more as 240 persons were also rejected in Arima subsequent to that rejection. He also stated an unknown number of persons who had applied online were also rejected.
Bostic said she wrote the Elections Supervisory Committee on March 31, 2014, seeking clarification of certain matters and requesting disclosure of the preliminary list approved by the party on April 14.
Bostic received a response from the secretary of the committee, Mona Persad, stating, “the final list of eligible voters to vote in the PNM internal elections on May 18, 2014, will be approved on April 30, 2014, by the General Council. Subsequent to such approval, copies of the said list will be made available to all candidates by the elections supervisory committee.”
Hypolite said individuals must be given enough time to be made aware that their names were rejected for a list and to appeal any decision that they be struck off or not placed on the list. Montano further stated, “This is a lot of people. This is not about us this is about the membership who have a right to choose their leader and to participate equally.”
Boynes alleged persons “sympathetic” to the Rowley slate had received easy access to membership forms. The team was yesterday due to hold a cottage meeting at the Navet Community Centre, Rio Claro, at 7pm.
Asked to respond to claims of a plot, Ford said, “I can’t answer that they have been making that excuse from day one I would prefer that the elections supervisory committee deal with these issues.” However, Ford added, “I find it strange that they are making all these allegations when throughout all the decisions by the General Executive, Ms Bostic and Mrs Beckles-Robinson have been present.”