Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has criticised his challenger, Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, for taking a position on proportional representation (PR) which was diametrically opposed to fundamental People’s National Movement (PNM) policy.
Rowley said the PNM has always had an uncompromising stand against PR.
Speaking on Monday evening at a public meeting in Barataria, Rowley referred to an interview which Beckles-Robinson did with TV6 News some weeks ago, in which he noted Beckles-Robinson stated as long as there was proper consultation, she was prepared to accept proportional representation.
“I raise this in a PNM gathering so that you understand when I saw...the person going up against me on television, saying that as long as there is consultation on proportional representation, it is okay, I asked myself, do you (Beckles-Robinson) understand what you are talking about? You going to agree to execute yourself as long as there is consultation on it? Which turkey votes for himself to be eaten at Thanksgiving?”
Rowley said this Government proposed proportional representation because it realised that in a first-past-the-post system, they would lose the majority of seats.
He said the objective of proportional representation was that “when the half-dead COP (Congress of the People)...adds themselves and their lack of principle and lack of spine to the UNC (United National Congress), together, they would form the next government”.
“Eric Williams understood it (PR) very clearly, and he said to the people in a marathon session in Parliament that proportional representation is a dagger aimed at the heart of the PNM by those who can’t fight the PNM politically. And that is fundamental PNM policy,” Rowley said.
Rowley then drew attention to a vote in the Senate on the issue of the Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, which introduced the principle of PR in the selection of aldermen for local government bodies.
He said to his “shock and embarrassment”, the PNM did not cast a vote against the measure, Rowley said.
He said after the matter came up for “serious discussion” at the general council, two senators—Fitzgerald Hinds and Terrence Deyalsingh—tendered their resignations, on the basis that as members of the Senate, they had failed to do their duty.
Rowley said he did not accept the resignations, but “I took careful note of the ultimate responsibility (for the debacle)”. Beckles-Robinson was at the time minority leader in the Senate.
Rowley said he wanted to ask the party members to vote for persons whom they could trust.
“I ask you not to compromise the PNM’s position. If ever I find myself in a position where I am compromised or beholden to any person or agency, it would prevent me from doing what I want to do freely and unfettered.
“While I have friends and colleagues on all sides of the political divide, none of them can prevent me from taking issue with any action of theirs or any political interest of theirs where I have a fear of being compromised. I am in nobody’s pocket. And I am nobody’s boy.
“And if you want to lead the PNM and Trinidad and Tobago, you must be prepared...to give no measure and ask no quarter.”