Saturday, February 24, 2018

Charles blasts PNM ‘standpipe gossip’

 The United National Congress (UNC) will not engage in smear campaigns to destroy people’s characters, says its campaign manager Rodney Charles.

He was responding to questions yesterday from the Sunday Express on what the party’s campaign strategy would be like for the 2015 general elections after an e-mail was leaked which showed that Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley was its primary target.

Last Thursday, at a People’s National Movement (PNM) public meeting Senator Camille Robinson-Regis read an e-mail from Charles which dealt with ways to launch a “full scale attack” on Rowley in order to bring down his ratings in public opinion polls.

Charles yesterday confirmed that he had written the e-mail to the team, which represented the UNC’s strategy team for the upcoming elections.

However, he said, he would not condone or be part of any strategy to destroy anyone’s character “unjustified”.

When the Sunday Express pointed out that declared UNC supporters engaged in destroying people’s characters online in social media such as Facebook, he said that he could not stop someone from “fair comment”.

However, he insisted that he would not be part of that strategy unless there was evidence to suggest otherwise.

Charles, 65, said his goal was simple: to ensure that Rowley is not elected to the office of Prime Minister.

“And I am assuming their  (the PNM)’s goal is the same,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

He accused Rowley and the PNM of engaging in “standpipe gossip” by allowing the contents of an e-mail to be read at a public meeting.

He said that Rowley was incapable of running the country and did not have a strategy in place for Trinidad and Tobago if he were to be elected.

To this end, the “good” that the People’s Partnership has done in office outweighs the scandals it has weathered, he said.

Questioned on how he intended to sanitise the images of the ministers given the series of public scandals which the party has endured, Charles explained that the government has done a lot of good and that will be their focus.

He referred to the Reshmi Ramnarine scandal, which was the first scandal to challenge the newly minted Kamla Persad-Bissessar Government. Ramnarine, a junior computer analyst, was appointed to head the country elite Security Intelligence Agency (SIA). Her appointment was short-lived after her qualifications were questioned.

“If you make 800 appointments, you are bound to have ten per cent of serious challenges because the truth is we are a society of human beings,” he answered.

When the Sunday Express pointed out that the court of public opinion had called for the head of Sport Minister Anil Roberts after a video was circulated which showed a man who resembled him rolling a cigarette, Charles explained that the Prime Minister was awaiting a report on the matter.

He noted that the minister must undergo “due process” which is not always the court of public opinion.

Asked then about Roberts’ role in the LifeSport programme, Charles pointed out that Persad-Bissessar had also initiated an audit into the programme.

But Charles reckons, that the UNC’s job is now “to ensure that voters are informed about  Dr Keith Rowley and the PNM, their lack of vision, and their history of non-performance”.

“It is clear that Dr Rowley continues to avoid enunciating policies, plans or a vision that will benefit the people of Trinidad and Tobago and improve the quality of their lives. Instead of providing alternative policy options that deal with poverty, crime, creating well paying jobs, and reducing our high food import bill, the PNM continues to major in minors.

 It is my hope that the PNM will, on their platforms articulate forward looking policies, so that we can enter into a reasoned debate which will allow voters a clear choice,” he said.

He said the UNC “being a responsible party in government,” will never cross the line of “hacking” into their opponents e-mails.

“We are not a party of hackers who believe, as the PNM clearly does, in standpipe, low class, gossip on platforms based on either stolen documents, mysterious packages left in mail boxes or the latest gossip making the rounds. This is a far cry from the strident intellectualism of the founder of that party who used to educate his party members on important matters of the day...” he said. 

What the e-mail said

Rodney Charles proposed launching a full scale attack on Keith Rowley following his PNM internal election victory.

The following are excerpts from Charles’ e-mail dated May 16 to UNC activists:

“We absolutely need to bring down his polling ratings. We are therefore asking you (and all our supporters) in whatever way you can, to be part of that attack.”

“Always refer to him as Rowley—not Dr Keith Rowley. Try also to have short sound bites that speak to his negatives. His name should be side by side with the negative e.g. Rowley is unfit to lead. He is too arrogant. He does not entertain views different from his.” 

“The central themes of our attack should be (you can add to these, but the information must be factual and concentrate on Rowley): .... Ok let us in our various (and even separate) ways do what we have to do to bring start putting KR on the defensive.”