‘I’m PNM captain’
By Clint Chan Tack and Sean Douglas Monday, May 19 2014
OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley last night declared himself as “the captain” of the People’s National Movement (PNM) as he was on course to be re-elected as party political leader in a landslide victory over his challenger, former Opposition senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, in the party’s historic one man-one vote internal elections.
As the results came trickling into the party’s Balisier House headquarters in Port-of-Spain last night, it became evident that Team Rowley was heading towards a clean sweep of all 15 posts on the PNM’s executive.
Early results at 8.45 pm showed that Rowley had garnered 3,258 votes to 164 votes from Beckles-Robinson from the constituencies of Oropouche East, Caroni East, Moruga/Tableland, Princes Town, Mayaro, Chaguanas West, Barataria/San Juan, Naparima and Lopinot/Bon Air West. The results of special voting on May 11, saw Rowley’s total increase to 3,458 votes while Beckles-Robinson’s total increased to 175 votes.
Arriving at Balisier House at 9.50 pm and wearing a white captain’s hat, Rowley was confident of victory for himself and his team.
“I am the captain of this ship,” he declared to loud cheers from PNM supporters. “From all preliminary reports it appears as though party members would have voted very wisely today. I look forward to the results later...I’m very optimistic. It means the party has been very energised. I think there is a resurgence of the PNM and that party members are very engaged in the process. It gives lie to the statement that people are not interested in the political process,” he declared.
“Today’s election had the look and feel of a general election. For a political party operating purely on volunteers to have conducted this exercise, quite a logistical experience, I want to congratulate my party members,” he said.
Expressing his willingness to work with Beckles-Robinson and members of her team, Rowley said he wanted to express particular thanks to “those who took part in the process as candidates.”
“I’ll be working with every party member in the PNM. When the results come in, if the direction continues, I expect to be the leader of the PNM and we don’t have two categories of members of the PNM,” he declared. Up to 10.30 pm, there was no statement from Beckles-Robinson and supporters were seen leaving her main camp in Valsayn. Laventille West MP Nileung Hypolite reiterated Team Penny’s concerns about the election but expressed his support for the PNM and Rowley as its leader.
PNM general secretary Ashton Ford last night said these results suggested Team Rowley was heading for a massive win over Team Penny.
Incumbent party public relations officer (PRO) Faris Al-Rawi agreed with Ford, saying “the results are devastating.”
Al-Rawi expressed congratulations to Beckles-Robinson for having “the courage to step forward” and offer herself to challenge Rowley for the PNM’s leadership. Al-Rawi added this has “given life to the whole PNM enterprise in resurgence” and the party will now turn its attention to winning the general election.
Elections chairman Charles Mitchell said the results of special voting which took place on May 11 showed Rowley receiving 139 votes, Beckles-Robinson received one vote and there were two rejected ballots.
Incumbent PNM chairman Franklin Khan received 140 votes while his Team Penny rival Danny Montano received two votes.
Operations officer Irene Hinds, who was standing for re-election on Team Rowley, received 140 votes. Team Penny operations officer candidate Eber Steele received one vote and there was one rejected ballot.
Mitchell anticipated there could be a voter turnout of 20 to 30 percent for the election. He admitted there were “a few glitches” during yesterday’s voting. He said early on some stations had seen a much higher turnout of voters than expected. “We responded to that by creating additional voting booths in the station,” Mitchell said.
The results suggested the re-election of Khan, Ford, Al-Rawi, Anthony Garcia, Daniel Dookie, Foster Cummings, Indar Parasam, Irene Hinds, and Jocelyn Bodden to the posts of chairman, general secretary, public relations officer (PRO), education officer, elections officer, field officer, operations officer and welfare officer respectively.
Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert, who unsuccessfully contested the post of vice- chairman two years ago, appeared to be on course to win that post over his Team Penny rival Cagney Cassimire.
Senate Opposition Chief Whip Camille Robinson-Regis, who defeated Imbert for the vice-chairman post in 2011, was similarly set to defeat her Team Penny rival Marva Bellamy Bostic for the post of lady vice-chairman. This post was previously held by Beckles-Robinson before she decided to challenge Rowley for the PNM’s leadership.
Al-Rawi’s sole challenger for the PRO post was former PNM Couva North candidate Nal Ramsingh who ran as an independent candidate. Team Penny offered no candidates for the posts of PRO or treasurer.
Former Opposition senator Fitzgerald Hinds was also set to win the youth officer post over Team Penny’s candidate Jamal Martin.
Another newcomer to the PNM executive is Port-of-Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee who was on course to defeat the incumbent Mariano Browne who ran as an independent candidate. Members of Team Rowley rejected claims from Browne that they had used party funds during the internal campaign. Harvey Borris and Richard Noray, who contested the elections as independent candidates, were also unsuccessful.
A total of 82,000 persons were eligible to vote in yesterday’s elections. The final voters’ list comprised 81,500 persons while an additional 500 persons were on a supplemental voters’ list. Beckles-Robinson and her team had threatened to take legal action to postpone the election because of concerns they had about the voters’ lists. However those threats did not materialise and the election proceeded yesterday as planned.
Voting took place in polling stations established in all 41 constituencies throughout the country.
The voting was reported to be steady throughout the country with some persons going to the polling stations as early as 7am. There were some hiccups as some persons said their names were not on the voters’ lists. PNM elections supervisory committee vice-chairman Murchison Brown admitted there were some administrative glitches but said these were ironed out.
Rowley and Beckles-Robinson cast their ballots before noon at St Anthony’s College in Westmoorings and the Arima Central Secondary School in Arima, respectively.