Yesterday was the deadline for persons wishing to become members of the People’s National Movement (PNM) in time to vote in the party’s first one man-one vote election, scheduled for May 18.
PNM general secretary Ashton Ford reported that the party has had an “overwhelming response” and that thousands of persons applied for membership in the party.
“I can’t give the numbers right now, but it is in the region of thousands,” he told the Express.
Ford said Balisier House, which is normally quiet on Carnival Friday and traditionally closes up by 2 p.m., was a hive of activity yesterday as the 4 p.m. deadline approached.
Persons signed up, paying a subscription fee of $5.
“Today was very, very hectic... And it is an encouraging sign that this party is stronger than ever,” he said, adding that it was also an indication of the level of interest people had in the internal election.
He said he expected that many persons who traditionally support the PNM, but never bothered to officially join the party, had now signed up to become members.
Ford said the list of names would now go before the Membership Screening Committee (chaired by Cuthbert Pierre) and the Central Executive (chaired by PNM chairman Franklin Khan) for ratification.
He said the preliminary list of electors (for the PNM election) would be released on April 14 to all the constituencies
Ford said nomination forms, for all those wishing to contest a position in the party, would be available from Ash Wednesday.
He added that the Internal Election Committee, which met last Wednesday, would be taking over the election processes. This committee, he said, now had an office in Balisier House, which would be run separate and apart from the party’s secretariat.
However, Bhose Sharma, chairman of the “To Preserve the Balisier Group”, said he was unhappy with the way things were proceeding.
Ford said a request by Sharma to have an extension of the time, for persons to join the party in order to vote, could not be entertained because the General Council had already set the deadline.
He said at its February 15 meeting, the General Council specifically and overwhelmingly voted against a proposal to extend the time.
Sharma told the Express that the time was too short for persons to join the party. He said he wrote to the general secretary, asking that the date be pushed back to the end of March.
“I haven’t heard from him. But how things are it is very difficult to get everybody who wants to come on and join the party and vote.”
Asked whether it was because it was the Carnival season, he said no.
“It has been a terrible distribution of forms because apparently if you don’t belong to the leader’s camp, they are telling you straight that you cannot get forms. It happened to me,” he said.
Sharma added that only yesterday he was at Balisier House and was told that there were no forms. He said the process appeared to be weighted against the challenger.
Asked whether he was speaking on behalf of the challenger, Pennelope Beckles, Sharma said no, he was speaking on behalf of “To Preserve the Balisier”, which is supporting Beckles.
Attempts to get Beckles were unsuccessful yesterday. But Beckles had earlier expressed concerns about the non-availability of “application for membership” forms when she first announced her candidacy for the post of political leader.
Ford denied Sharma’s claims that only persons in a particular camp were being given forms, saying that forms were given to everyone and “we never asked what camp they belonged to or who they were supporting”.
“We gave forms to the constituencies and after every General Council meeting, forms were given. There were instructions from the political leader (Keith Rowley) that we were not to deny forms,” Ford said.
Rowley has already selected and announced a slate of candidates for his team.
The slate includes Franklin Khan (chairman), Camille Robinson-Regis (lady vice-chairman), Ford (general secretary), Daniel Dookie (assistant general secretary), Foster Cummings (election officer), Fitzgerald Hinds (youth officer), Anthony Garcia (education officer), Joslyn Bodden (welfare officer), Jennifer Baptiste (labour relations officer) and Faris Al Rawi (public relations officer).
Sharma said he had no information about the persons who would be on Beckles’ slate.
“That is something close to her and she would make that announcement when she has her slate in place and has discussed it with everyone. I don’t even know who the persons are who she has been talking to, to be on her slate,” he said.