With just one week to go before the close of nominations for the People’s National Movement (PNM) internal election, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley seems set to contest the leadership unchallenged.
Up to news time, party sources said there has been no reports of any challengers to Rowley, who, at the last internal poll in 2014, defeated sole contender Pennelope Beckles-Robinson by a landslide.
On Thursday, the PNM’s Diego Martin West Party Group 20, gave Rowley an overwhelming endorsement, agreeing to nominate him for re-election to the post of political leader. The internal election takes place on September 30.
The group presented Rowley with the nomination papers for his signature, which was presided over by Robert Caesar, of the Diego Martin West constituency executive, at Balisier House, Port of Spain. The nomination papers are expected to be submitted officially to the PNM election committee on September 3, in keeping with the election rules.
As of yesterday, though, Rowley had not revealed the names of the people on his slate for the upcoming election as he said he would have done at the party’s Sport and Family Day on August 12 at Edinburgh 500 Recreation Ground, Chaguanas. Sources regarded this situation as strange.
“On the last occasion, we had our teams all over the country,” one source said.
“We had meetings and the team was introduced to audiences. There was also candidates who were assigned specific areas to canvas.”
There has been some concern about the quality of Rowley’s leadership, with some claiming the party has moved away from its moorings and no longer sought the interests of its die-hard supporters.
Sources said the sod-turning ceremony for the start of construction of the new Balisier House headquarters on Thursday evening was a case in point, despite its hype and line up of first class entertainers.
“The spirit was not there and there was no big crowd,” one source said. Rowley is set to re-contest his post as political leader at a crucial juncture in the PNM’s term in office: the party completes its third year in office next Friday - September 7 - the same day nominations are expected to close for candidates seeking to contest the internal election.
However, his leadership has been dogged by complaints that the PNM has lost touch with its grassroots supporters, many of whom had helped steer the party to victory in the 2015 general election.
More recently, there has been much fallout over the decision to shutdown Petrotrin’s refinery operations in Pointe-a-Pierre as part of an overhaul of the long-beleaguered State-owned company.
The refinery’s shutdown is expected to affect an estimated 1,700 employees and hundreds more in the restructuring exercise.
The decision would be the crux of next Friday’s proposed day of rest and reflection, led by the Oilfields Workers Trade Union.
Rowley is expected to deal with matters relating to the impending shutdown of the refinery and the future of Petrotrin, tomorrow, in a televised address to the nation.
Meanwhile, sources said former social development minister Mustapha Abdul-Hamid is expected to file his nomination papers for the post of chairman some time next week. That position is held currently by Energy Minister Franklin Khan.
Also set to file their nomination papers are former minister in the Ministry of Finance Mariano Browne for the post of vice chairman, currently held by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and attorney Ronald Boynes for the post of public relations officer.
National Security Minister and Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Stuart Young currently holds that post. Boynes, a former chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, is the brother of former sport minister Roger Boynes.
Sources said the newly-created post of social media officer would likely see some stiff competition between current office holder Ronald Huggins and Dane Wilson.