People National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council vice-chairman Wendell Berkeley has revealed approximately 1,500 people have applied to be members of the party, ahead of the January 19 internal election.
However, he told a news conference on Friday at the party's headquarters in Scarborough, not all the new applicants would be allowed to vote in the election because they must satisfy the requirements of a screening committee.
The deadline date for new members eligible to vote in the internal election was December 20, 2019.
Berkeley, who is contesting the position of chairman on the Tracy Davidson-Celestine slate in the internal election, said the party has been inundated with requests for membership.
"We had applications coming in. We had a lot," he told reporters.
"Even when the deadline came, people kept coming but a deadline is a deadline and that deadline has passed. And I could say that our applications is somewhere between approximately 1,400 or 1,500 new persons have applied."
Berkeley said, however, there is a screening committee that reviews all of the applicants and makes recommendations to the council.
He added the screening committee met on three separate occasions "because they wanted to give a very good effort to the process.
"They have completed their exercise and so the new members and the rest of the process will take its place."
PNM PRO Kwesi Des Vignes, who is seeking to retain his post on the Kelvin Charles slate, said there is a high level of interest in the internal election.
"We have registered over 1,400 new members to date. And that was before December 31," he told reporters.
"And there are a number of persons who still want to be registered but of course, you can still register but you won't be eligible to vote in the election."
Des Vignes added: "What it says, very forcefully, is that the public of Tobago recognises that this election is an important one for Tobago because it is very clear to the people of Tobago who the only choice is for the governance of this island – and that is the PNM."
In fact, Des Vignes said of the new applicants, the greatest interest in membership came from east Tobago.
"A lot of people in east Tobago are joining the party because they recognise that the PNM is the choice going forward and they want to have their say in the internal affairs of the party as it moves into two elections in the not too distant future.
"So, I think it is a very good sign for the PNM and it is very clear that the other parties do not have the type of traction that they claim to have, despite their bravado and great attempts at fooling people."
Berkeley, who is also chairman of the Tobago East constituency, thanked those who expressed an interest in joining the PNM.
"All those who are still intending to join, feel free. The doors are open because our party is an all-inclusive party that accommodates," he said.
MEMBERSHIP FEE WAIVER
PNM members who have not been paying their monthly dues are to receive a waiver that will allow them to vote in the internal election. Members are required to pay a fee of $8 monthly.
Saying the deadline date for the payment of dues for the internal election was December 31, Berkeley reminded reporters Tobago Council chairman Stanford Callender said at a previous news conference there would be a review after the deadline date.
"Because a lot of people were concerned about whether there would be a waiver...You had a lot of things in the news, members and non-members saying things. There was a whole set of discourse where that was concerned," he recalled.
Berkeley said the party's executive council reviewed the situation and recommended that the fees be waived for every member.
"Therefore, I am saying to you that we will have an election....that will be free and fair and free from fear. The general membership can participate as they so desire without the barrier of a subscription or of payment of any funds."
Berkeley recalled a similar situation occurred in the last internal election, four years ago.
"In 2016, there were the same issues and we waived. And we had a 47 per cent turnout of the membership."
Berkeley said getting people to pay dues is a problem in many organisations.
"I hope the pastors don't get me for this but sometimes in your churches, members don't pay dues. Dues appear to be a real challenge sometimes for people to pay.
"And so this political party does not escape it. But we continue to collect dues of course."
Berkeley said because of the importance of this exercise "we are saying, Let everybody have an opportunity to vote, whether you are (in good standing) financial or not."
Berkeley also announced there will be a change in the number of polling stations.
"The elections supervisory committee made a recommendation some time ago of seven polling stations. There is a correlation between the number of people who can vote and the polling stations. And, therefore, with the opening of the waiver, then there had to be a reconsideration of the number of polling stations."
Berkeley said the issue has been engaging the attention of the elections supervisory committee.
"They are in talks and based on the numbers and the distribution of votes, how they see the final count would be, more than likely I was told there may be an increase from seven. I am not sure what the figure will be now....but it seems as though it is not going to be seven again. That information will be forthcoming."
Berkeley said the preliminary voters' list will be available from Monday so candidates will get the opportunity to campaign in their respective areas.
He said the final voters' list will be issued on January 16.