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LEGAL BATTLE LOOMS

Beckles-Robinson challenges PNM rejection of 7,000 membership applicants

By Stories by Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

A legal battle is looming which could result in the People’s National Movement’s (PNM) internal elections set for May 18 being stopped.

The team representing aspiring PNM leader Pennelope Beckles-Robinson yesterday argued the election process was being manipulated to the benefit of incumbent leader Dr Keith Rowley and was far from being free and fair.

 Member of Parliament for Laventille West Nileung Hypolite, the logis­tics co-ordinator for the Beck­les-

Robinson team, told the Express yesterday there were many lawyers on Beck­les-Robinson’s team, including Beckles-Robinson herself, who will not stand by and watch the democratic process be thwarted, in the interest of a few, self-serving persons.

In an interview at a private residence in Valsayn yesterday, Hypolite produced several documents, purporting to show how the process was being influenced unfairly.

He also had in his posses­sion a copy of yesterday’s Express, claiming PNM general secretary Ashton Ford made several inaccurate statements regarding the applications for voters in the story “PNM rejects 7,000”.

Informed sources told the Express approximately 7,000 applications were rejected.

Ford was quoted in the story as saying the applications came in bundles and were not in conformity with the standard requirement and further claimed external forces were seeking to mani­pulate the election process.

According to Ford, in one instance, a party member came into Balisier House on the deadline date to pay $7,500 for 1,500 applicants. This was also an online registration. 

He said these application forms were similarly incomplete and, therefore, once again, were unable to be processed by the PNM’s membership screening committee.

Hypolite introduced Catherine Gray to the Express yesterday during the interview.

She said she went to Balisier House with $7,500 cash and a list of names which Ford accepted and took the money.

Hypolite said Ford’s argument that the application forms were incomplete and were missing information was simply untrue. 

Using his iPad, he filled out an application form online and was unable to proceed with submitting it because information was missing.

Hypolite said Gray went to Bali­sier House on Wednesday with $7,500 cash to register 1,500 applicants, and later that day, a driver also went with a list of 400 names and cash for registration. The monies were accepted for the total 1,900 appli­cants, he said.

Hypolite said during Beckles-Robinson’s campaign, people were urged to go online and register. In some cases, he said they came to the team and gave their information and paid their money, and the online registration was done on their behalf.

He claimed some 7,000 applicants signed on during the drive, but because they were perceived to be supporters of Beckles-Robin-

son, their names were rejected.

“The PNM cannot be seen as an all-inclusive party when they are rejecting 7,000 persons,” said Hypolite.

He said the life membership list of the PNM has 79,463 names on it, but during the 2010 general election, over 250,000 people came out and voted for the PNM, so there are many persons in the country who want to join the party but were being frustrated by the process.

Hypolite noted Wed­nes­day was the last day for persons to submit applications and after that, there is a five-day period to make any queries if they are not listed.

He questioned how Ford could deny these rejected persons from making any queries and asked further how was it Ford, who was running as a candidate on Rowley’s slate, can be so heavily involved in the election process and making key decisions with respect to voters.

Hypolite provided to the Express a list of some 11,000-plus persons from constituencies throughout Tri­nidad and Tobago who were approved by the PNM national executive as new members, over the period January to March 2014.

He pointed to the list of the constituency of Chaguanas East where the majority of the applicants were proposed by persons on Rowley’s slate or in full support of him, such as Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and Primnath Dindial.

On this list, there are one or two persons who were proposed by supporters of Beckles-Robinson.

Hypolite said this pattern existed throughout the lists for all the constituencies—where the majority of names that were accepted were proposed by supporters of Rowley.

In one instance, he said in the Diego Martin West constituency—a member of the PNM elections committee Mona Persad—was listed as being the proposer for an applicant when members of this committee were supposed to divorce themselves from the campaigning process.

He said it was wrong for members of the elections committee to be present at meetings where decisions were being taken and to be actively involved in campaigning.

Hypolite said he and the team will be encouraging the 7,000-plus members to write to the elections committee, querying their rejection.

He said an official letter from the Beckles-Robinson team will be dispatched, on behalf of the applicants they had received monies from and submitted forms.

Hypolite said further, various 

constituency executives had issued statements that they had endorsed Row­ley’s candidacy, including La Hor­quetta/Talparo, St Joseph and others.

He said constituency executive members are the same persons who have to approve individuals to be returning officers and presiding offi­cers on election day.

Hypolite said further, there was a frustrating process with the application forms. He said first, there was a white unnumbered application form, then a white numbered application form, then a yellow unnumbered form, then a yellow numbered form and a blue re-registration form.

He said hundreds of people who applied using the first forms were being rejected as the system kept changing day after day.

“Where is the fairness in this whole thing?” said Hypolite.

“I’m very disappointed because it was Dr Rowley who said let us have this one-man, one-vote system, and it was Dr Rowley who assured that he would take the whole process forward. He also indicated that he would not deny anyone from participating in the election and would waive the fees to give everyone an opportunity” said Hypolite.

Referring to the injunction filed yesterday which stopped the elections for the Medical Practitioners Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MPATT), Hypolite said “that may very well be the way we will be heading”.

 
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