With a mere two weeks before the internal elections of the People’s National Movement (PNM), the issue of skin colour reared its head at a meeting by “Team Penny” at the Mikey Trotman Recreation Ground, Pinto Road, Arima, on Friday night.
The incident occurred during the open-forum session when a supporter of challenger for the post of political leader Pennelope Beckles-Robinson went to the podium to make his contribution.
The Sunday Express learned the supporter made a statement that the country did not want any black, bald-head, ugly Tobagonian to lead it.
Contacted for a comment on his
behaviour yesterday, Carlton Lewis, who lives in the community of Paria,
was unrepentant about his statements.
“So what if I said that?” he asked.
How do you feel about making those statements, the Sunday Express asked
Lewis, to which he an-
swered, “I don’t feel badly about saying that at all.”
Several PNM members were posting Facebook messages on the incident yesterday.
MP Nileung Hypolite, one of the members of Team Penny, told the Sunday Express yesterday that Team Penny does not condone any such behaviour and was not supportive of any such comments or statements.
“We denounced it right after he was finished speaking.
“We are of the belief that is not the way a platform conversation should be. Penny denounced that statement immediately. This is not what we are about,” Hypolite said.
He added: “We cannot control what anyone is go-
ing to say when they go to the mic, but on completion of his statement, Penny totally denounced it. She would normally speak after the questions and statements are made; she would answer the issues raised.
“Our campaign has been clean from
this kind of bacchanal we are not about
these kinds of things. I also renounced the statements,” Hypolite said.
The issue of Rowley’s unsuitability to lead the PNM because he was considered by some within the ranks of the PNM to be “too black” surfaced very early in the campaign. This behaviour has been denounced by several sectors in the country.
Communications adviser for Team Penny, Cheryl Lalla issued a short statement yesterday on the matter.
It said: “In an immediate rejection of a remark made by an audience member at a public meeting in Pinto Road, Arima, last night, Mrs Penny Beckles-Robinson, asserted and endorsed the right of Tobagonians to lead the PNM.
“It is unfortunate that an over-enthusiastic member of the audience last night saw it fit to speak against a Tobagonian leading the PNM. While
Team Penny cannot be held responsible for the views of any individual, I want to completely refute and reject that individual’s statement.
“Trinidad and Tobago is a twin-island state in which all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago are entitled to wlead the PNM. We are a national party and Tobagonians, just as much as Trinidadians, are nationals of this country, and as such, are entitled and indeed welcome to lead the party.”
Beckles-Robinson added: “I note that while many positive things were aired and discussed at last night’s meeting and several members of the public spoke, the media is choosing to
focus on the admittedly negative state-
ment of this one audience member.
“I hope and expect that my absolute and immediate rejection of the remarks made by this audience member receives equal publicity.”