Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Party forms in opponents’ hands


election plot: Ashton Ford

Mark Fraser

More controversy may be brew­ing in the People’s National Move­ment’s (PNM) upcoming internal elections as 1,000 application forms have ended up in the hands of an activist of the New National Vision (NNV) party to vote political leader Dr Keith Rowley out of office, according to the PNM’s general secretary, Ashton Ford.

Ford also reported a further 100 forms, which were signed for by Member of Parliament (MP) for Laven­tille West Ni Leung Hypolite, at Balisier House in Port of Spain, were distributed in the Fyzabad con­stituency, a stronghold of the ruling United National Congress (UNC).

PNM supporters in that constit­u­ency have made a formal complaint to the general secretary about the issue. 

Ford reported this to the party’s general council meeting last Monday when he said application forms were getting into the hands of people op-

posed to the PNM. The party’s mem­bership goes to the polls on May 18 to choose a new executive and political leader.

Rowley’s leadership is being con­tested by attorney and former PNM cabinet minister Pennelope Beckles-Robinson. 

Ford told members the

forms were handed to a particular person in the NNV who was instructed “to

give them to people to vote against Dr Keith Row­ley”.

The NNV’s political lead­er is Fuad Abu Bakr, son of Yasin Abu Bakr, while Fyzabad is a stronghold of the United National Con­gress (UNC) whose MP is Chandresh Sharma. The Sun­day Express learned the forms were passed on to the PNM leader­ship by the activist.

Yesterday, Hypolite categorically denied any involvement in the distri­bution of forms to Bakr’s NNV party.

“I know absolutely nothing about that,” he said.

But he did admit to signing the 100 forms at Balisier House, which he conceded could have ended up in any constituency since people from all over the country were in need of forms so they could vote in the upcoming elections. 

But how did they end up in the Fyza­bad constitu­en­cy? the Sunday Express asked.

“That is a very simple thing. I would have signed for 100 applicant forms at Balisier House, yes. But if you remember us saying that at some point in time, a number of persons were not getting application forms. I would have issued application forms to individuals because we were on a membership drive and, therefore, if there are persons in Mayaro that wanted a form, I would give to them. 

“That does not mean that I would have gone out there to give Chan-

dresh Sharma any application forms. I could not have given anybody who I know to be a member of the UNC, or any other party, any forms at all. What

I would have done, I would have giv­en to a selected number of persons, who I know to be members of

the PNM, forms to go out there to con­tinue the whole membership process.

“Let me also say that again, there are over 280,000 persons who would normally vote for the PNM. I don’t know nor do I think Dr Rowley or even Ashton Ford know all those 280,000 persons. 

“Further to that, there are persons right now who are in the PNM who were once UNC members; there are persons financing the PNM who were once UNC members. So are you telling me that if it is someone wants to be a member of the PNM because he or she was once aligned to another party, cannot or must not be?

“So with respect to applications, I would say, yes, I would have given out forms to many persons. It’s 100 forms, so if one or two of those forms get in the hands of some other constituency, I don’t see anything wrong with that,” he said. 

Sharma could not be immediately reached for comment yesterday.

In the case of the NNV however, Hypolite said he found it strange 1,000 forms would have ended up in

its hands since the issuance of forms are monitored by Balisier House. 

“Next question is: are those forms numbered forms or unnumbered forms? Again, if the NNV has forms, then we have to ask Balisier House who is responsible for monitoring those forms; how they receive those 1,000 numbered forms?” 

Asked to comment on the issue, NNV leader Bakr said yesterday the par­ty does not have any personal inte­-

­rest in the internal elections of the PNM. 

“I am not doubting that any mem­ber could have been approached to distribute forms; after all, this is part of the democratic process of Trinidad and Tobago. I don’t know if that per­son is still a member of the NNV or any other political party. But if it’s just to distribute forms, then it is well within the right of any individual in this country to do so.”

The Sunday Express also learned concerns were also raised to the gen­e­ral council about the printing of extra forms in the Princes Town con­­stit­uency, with Ford raising a red flag that PNM internal elections’ application forms were now in the hands of political opponents of the PNM.