Political commentators have described as unfortunate Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s use of the word “imps” to describe those whom he claimed simply want to contest the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) upcoming executive election to damage the party.
“I think it is unfortunate and most unbecoming of the leader of a political party to call people who want to contest positions on the executive ‘imps,’ and to be dismissive of them in that way,” former government minister Ralph Maraj told Newsday yesterday .
In his address at the PNM’s annual Sports and Family Day in Chaguanas on Sunday, the PM revealed he intended to field his own slate of candidates for the September 30 internal election.
Rowley also told supporters while they were free to vote for candidates of their choice, he had “a right to prevent imps whose only purpose is to destroy the party from being elected.”
Maraj said he had no issue with Rowley wanting to field his own candidates, but the party should reject Rowley’s comment.
“The party ought to tell the prime minister...right-thinking people in the party and in the country as a whole ought to tell the prime minister that that is totally unacceptable.” He said the comment also did not reflect sound leadership.
“A leader of the party should be all-embracing and inclusive, even if he wants to have his own team. It is very divisive and represents poor leadership.”
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said the comment was “very sad.”
“What the political leader has basically said is that there are some people in the party who may not necessarily be in the best interest of the party. I found the comment to be unfortunate.”
Former Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing, who is also a former long-term member of the party, said Rowley’s comment had the potential to fuel discord within the party.
“I could take the low ground and say, ‘Well, an imps must know an imps.’ But that again would not help,” Lee Sing said.
“I think I have a responsibility to help the party at every turn if I were a party member, and I were a political leader, I would have a responsibility to do everything within my power legally to assist the party in finding itself and finding common ground and goodwill and fellowship among all its members. United we stand and divided you fall.”
Lee Sing said there were too many divisions in the country.
“It cannot be that there is this big wall that the prime minister keeps up. He isn’t doing anything to break down the wall between himself and the Opposition. It is almost as if he thrives on the conflict between himself and the Opposition.”
Lee Sing said TT desperately needed a transformation.
On the PM’s decision to field a slate for the election, Ragoonath said: “Clearly, the political leader wants to have full control of his party’s executive and in that context is hoping that the rank and file of the party will vote faith rather than individuals.”
He added: “It is in that context that he is hoping that he could have total control over the party and the membership will support those who he put on his slate.”
Whether that was the best thing for the democracy of the party remained to be seen.