Saturday, February 24, 2018

...No contact with Manning, says Penny

Former senator Pennelope Beckles said yesterday she has had no contact with former PNM leader Patrick Manning since taking the decision to contest the position of PNM leader.

She said she last spoke with Manning when he returned from the Washington, DC last year, “just to enquire about his health”.

“But as a good politician there is no harm in seeking some advice, I probably will at some point in time,” she said.

Asked whether she had concerns that the election might not be free and fair, Beckles noted that the party had set February 28 as the deadline for joining the organisation (if one wanted to vote).

She said, however, there was a problem with the availability of application forms to join the party.

She said she raised the concern at the Central Executive and the General Council, “and the answers caused me some concerns”.

“There was an admission of a difficulty in relation to the obtaining of forms. There was an issue of costs. Several supporters of the party who have been coming over time have not been able to access forms to join the party,” she said.

She said while the political leader had talked about attracting new members and widening the base, accessing forms had not been easy.

She also noted that at a recent meeting in Arima, Rowley himself indicated that in the case of his own constituency when he went through the membership list he found 50 per cent of the people named on it were dead.

She said the process of having the party’s electoral list rectified, having regard to the deadline for the preliminary list and then the final list as well as the date of election, would be tight schedule.

“If you are going to campaign, you must know the persons who can vote for you,” she said.

Beckles said while she acknowledged there would be challenges, the party should have anticipated some of them.

At the press conference, her father, Lionel Beckles, 83, and her husband Noel Robinson were present.

Lionel Beckles, a former general secretary of the Oilfields’ Workers Trade Union (OWTU), said Beckles was always a responsible person from a young child and he was happy that she was seeking to become PNM leader.

Beckes, who attended St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, and was the first person in her family to attend a “prestige school”, grew up in a village just outside of San Fernando.

She has served at all levels of the PNM, as a former youth officer, as chairman of the Women’s League, as MP for Arima.

She comes from a PNM family. She has served as a Minister of Public Utilities and Environment, a Minister of Culture and a deputy Speaker.

Beckles recalled yesterday that she lost the chairmanship (to Franklin Khan) in 2010 “by three votes and seven spoilt ballots”.

She said in any such situation there ought to have been a recount.

She noted that the new rules now had a mechanism for challenging the result, in circumstances that would prevent the ballots from being destroyed the minute the election results were announced.