Up until the news broke, weeks ago, that Mustapha Abdul-Hamid had offered to contest the chairmanship of the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) in the party’s internal election, on Sunday, little was heard publicly about the former government minister.
But Abdul-Hamid, 49, has been quietly observing the happenings in the PNM during his time away from active politics and is ready, once again, to play a frontline role in the party’s development.
He said he was not contesting the election on any particular slate.
“I am of the view that the membership should feel free and comfortable to select any candidate of his or her choice in any combination from the choices on the ballot,” he said in a Sunday Newsday interview.
“They should use your best judgement and select the candidate best able to perform. In the end, the executive will reflect the considered will of the membership, which we will all accept.”
If elected, Abdul-Hamid said he would initiate a programme of widespread consultation with the party’s membership and supporters to gauge views on the way forward..
He said: “Outside of the statutory requirements, I intend to propose to the leadership and general council that we embark on a dedicated programme, in collaboration with the constituency executives, to visit every constituency, meet with the general membership in their community and listen to the views, suggestions and proposals of members on the all aspects of the affairs of the party. We can then be guided accordingly.” Has his position taken into account the view among some that the PNM had shifted from its moorings?
Abdul-Hamid would only say: “The success and longevity of the PNM are a direct result of our dedication to the national interest and our commitment to the ordinary, rank and file, grassroots people. We are guided by the values of care, compassion and respect for all.”
He said he decided to contest the post of chairman because the PNM was critical to TT’s well-being.
“The country depends on the PNM. There is absolutely no other political organisation that can provide to the nation as a whole, the quality of leadership, governance and comprehensive development as the PNM has done over the last sixty-two years.”
The father of one, who lives by the philosophy, seek truth and contribute, said the duty of the chairman was to ensure the party is optimally efficient and effective in the conduct of its affairs.
“This requires a dedicated effort. I am contesting to contribute to making the PNM the best it can be.” Abdul-Hamid said a chairman must be fair and even-handed. “He must create the environment where all members are free and empowered to express their views. He must be prepared to listen and to show respect. Let the people speak.”
Abdul-Hamid’s decision to join the PNM, many years ago, was galvanised by his own hardscrabble beginnings.
“I come from a very humble, single parent home. We grew up poor and understand the necessity for opportunities to make life better. My own experience taught me the value of empathy.”
He grew up in Patna Village, Diego Martin and attended Queen’s Royal College and later, the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, where he graduated with a degree in history and political science.
Abdul-Hamid first entered the Parliament, under the former Patrick Manning administration, as a senator between 2001 and 2007, serving in several portfolios, including minister of social development and minister of science, technology and tertiary education. He later served as minister of public utilities. He was elected to the House of Representatives on November 5, 2007, as MP for what was at that time, the newly-created Chaguanas East constituency.
“I am grateful to the PNM and its leaders for the opportunities I have been afforded since childhood in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Without the PNM, none of us would have had the opportunities to grow, develop and prosper. I have a duty to contribute to ensure the we continue in our best traditions of serving the people.”
However, Abdul-Hamid avoided speculation about his chances of winning the position of party heavyweight Colm Imbert but said he was confident.
He said his campaign has gone extremely well.
“Our stand that the PNM is a caring party, looking after the needs of the ordinary citizens, is resonating with our membership. We are very confident.”
He also declined comment about the prevailing sentiment among members and supporters on the campaign trail on how they felt the party was faring more than halfway into its term.
Rather, he offered: “People join political parties because they have opinions, want their voices to be heard and their views taken into account. Our duty is to strengthen the mechanisms by which this is achieved.”