Opposition Leader Keith Rowley
PNM REJECTS 7,000
Party official: External forces seeking to manipulate membership applicants for internal elections
Ria Taitt Political Editor
The People’s National Movement (PNM) has rejected approximately seven thousand applicants, informed sources told the Express yesterday.
The applications were made in the run-up to the party’s May 18 internal election, being conducted for the first time on the one-man one-vote basis.
Sources told the Express that general secretary Ashton Ford reported several irregularities to the General Council at its meeting on Monday.
The PNM preliminary list consists of 80,000 names. This is in stark contrast to the 800 delegates who voted under the previous system.
But sources stated that Ford reported there “seemed to be a clear attempt to undermine the integrity of the electoral process and pollute the system” by “external forces” in an apparent attempt to manipulate the process and discredit the outcome.
Contacted yesterday, Ford confirmed there were “red flags”. He said some applications came in bundles and were not in conformity with the standard requirements. He cited one case of an individual who gave her name as Hazel Mohammed who paid $2,000 for 400 applicants. The application fee is $5 per person and is non-refundable. Ford said on the deadline date for applications to joining the party in time to vote for the internal elections, Mohammed appeared at Balisier House with $2,000 and a list of names, nine pages long.
Ford said when the secretariat checked, Mohammed was not a member of the party. When asked to provide details about herself, she failed to provide any information such as an address, ID number, or occupation. She also declined to affix her signature to any document. He said Mohammed did not have any information on the 400 people whose membership fee she was paying.
Ford said the application form provides for each applicant to have a proposer who is a member of the party and this essential information was missing. Also missing were the ID card numbers/passport no or Driver’s Permit number as well as their occupation, date of birth and telephone contact for any of the 400. Ford said the party could not therefore attest to the authenticity of the applicants.
Ford said the PNM’s membership screening committee was therefore unable to finalise the processing of these incomplete applicants.
Ford said in another 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.
The Express obtained the receipts of these two transactions. Attempts to reach the party member Cathrene Gray were unsuccessful yesterday. Both Gray and Mohammed came to Balisier House with a list of names unsupported by any application forms, from which biographical data and proposer would be provided, Ford said.
Because it was the first time the party was conducting such a massive election operation, Ford said the party was determined to ensure the integrity of the system. Ford explained that among the challenges the party faced was the fact that persons were not using original forms, but were making applications on printed or photocopied forms in numbers far exceeding those originally distributed to the constituencies.
Ford said in response to this, the party introduced from the beginning of the year, a system of having application forms numbered. The numbered forms became the only valid application, he said.
Ford said on the basis of his detailed report presented to the General Council on Monday, the General Council voted unanimously to accept the preliminary list. The two rival contestants, Keith Rowley and Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, were present at the General Council meeting on April 14, the deadline for producing the preliminary list.
The party had accepted approximately 12,000 new applicants and over 2,000 re-registrations (that is members whose membership records were lost).
The General Council had previously waived the financial requirements of existing members to allow them to vote without having to pay their membership dues on the basis that it wanted the widest participation of its current membership.
Last month, political leader Dr Keith Rowley claimed that members of other political parties were trying to pad the PNM voters’ list.
“Ensure the people on the list are bona-fide PNM members, and not members of the other party who are trying to pad the list, because they are trying that,” he told a meeting at the La Horquetta Regional Complex. He added there were people who were more interested in the outcome of the PNM internal elections than some PNM supporters, and the party had to ensure the election process was not infiltrated and polluted.
However, challenger Pennelope Beckles-Robinson complained there was a problem of availability of application forms to join the party. “Several supporters of the party have not been able to access forms to join the party,” she said at the announcement of her candidacy at Balisier House in January.
She said while the political leader had talked about attracting new members and widening the base, accessing forms had not been easy. 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 a tight schedule.