Pick a winner.
That was the reaction of Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday to being challenged for the leadership of the People’s National Movement (PNM).
Rowley, who said he was not daunted, adding there was already the view his challenger was not the best person for the job, but the people should pick a winner who will ensure victory at the 2015 general election.
Former PNM senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson confirmed to party members at a PNM constituency meeting in Arima on Tuesday that she intends to enter the PNM leadership election race. Elections are being held on May 18.
Beckles is yet to make a public statement on her decision and is expected to do so after officially informing Rowley.
Without calling any names, Rowley, in a telephone interview with the Express, said it was already the view that his challenger could not do a better job than him.
“It’s not about me; if the party think I’ve done a good job, then it is the choice of persons to vote me back into office, but if they find somebody better, the system now allows them to choose that person. But fortunately, the person who has come forward so far is not really somebody who is viewed to do a better job, but others may come forward,” he said.
“Remember, this is not about me, this is about now and the future,” he added.
The PNM, he said, is embarking on a cultural change where, for the first time, every member through the length and breath of Trinidad and Tobago will have an opportunity to choose who they want as their leader, through the one-man, one-vote system.
In the past, the PNM elected its leader through a delegate system.
Rowley said through his campaign meetings, members are being educated about exercising their democratic duty to vote.
“We are telling people to choose the best person for the job; it’s a cultural change the party is facing; we are insisting that you need to get serious, take responsibility, elect or select the best persons to do the best job; you want to win election, elect somebody who will give you the best chances to win,” he said.
Asked whether he will take a back seat and accept if he is defeated at the election, he responded, “I have always accepted the results of elections in the party so I see no reason I wouldn’t accept it now. As I said, this isn’t about me, this is about the party broadening its democracy to better be able to serve the country.
“I have said that I have opened myself up to have my record examined, and others who are challenging will also theirs, and people will see who is the best person for the job,” he said.
Rowley said he was not fearful there will be issues with respect to the one-man, one-vote system as he noted that was the very method the country uses nationally in its elections.
He said the PNM’s membership list was being sorted out to ensure it is bona fide and the names of persons who are deceased are no longer on it.
Rowley said PNM members are excited about the elections and people participation was what was important.
“There were persons who thought the PNM would never make the change and nobody could get the PNM to move from where it was,” said Rowley, adding if it is one thing he worked to ensure as leader was changing the voting system in the party.
“People are anxious to get involved. This is an exciting time; now, you can vote for who you want, you can choose your candidate,” said Rowley.