Tuesday, February 20, 2018

‘Black’ talk on PNM platform again

Penny denounces comments by supporter during open-mic session

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.”