THE question in Sangre Grande and Toco on Tuesday was not what mark to play, or if rain would fall later. The question on the lips of many was, “Who is Roger Monroe?”
Everyone interviewed by Newsday on Tuesday on the issue of Monroe's being the PNM’s choice of candidate for Toco/Sangre Grande in the general election said the same thing: We know not this man, so why should we vote for him?
On Sunday, Monroe an alderman for six months, was selected by PNM executives after a vote via secret ballot, over former chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation and councillor for Toco/Fishing Pond Terry Rondon, who has been in the political arena for the PNM for 24 years.
Though Rondon was confident he would have been the ideal candidate, he said the party’s decision to reject him has not affected the way he feels about the PNM and he promised to “hold the hands” of the candidate and “guide him.”
Discontent first reared its head in Toco/Sangre Grande after it emerged that incumbent MP Glenda Jennings-Smith would not be considered as the PNM’s candidate. Jennings-Smith made her feelings clear over social media, even calling the name of a government minister as being the one behind her being given the political boot.
The PNM then screened and chose former TT and WI cricketer Mervyn Dillon as its prospective candidate. But he too was shown the door after constituency executives felt he was an unknown quantity, politically speaking. Enter the popular Rondon, who on Saturday presented himself for screening.
Rondon too could not make the grade in the eyes of the screening committee led by political leader Dr Rowley and on Sunday, it was announced that Monroe was the committee’s choice.
When Newsday visited several areas in Sangre Grande and Toco on Tuesday, the general view was that no one knew who Monroe is. Toco resident Errol Thomas said, “We don’t know him. I know him but politics not nice and it’s time for it to change. It’s hard to say if he can do better than who is here.
“The poor people are crying out. Everyone knows what the country is missing and they know what needs to be done and they just not doing. Everybody thieving and not making a jail.
"I won’t say I prefer Terry but there are other people. Those older heads are outdated people. These old heads run out of ideas.”
Asked what he would like to see from Monroe if he is elected, Thomas steupsed and walked away.
“Roger who?” another Toco resident replied when asked about Monroe. She said, “I don’t know Roger but I know Terry well. I can’t say what I expect from Roger (if he is voted in) because I have never seen him before.”
Pensioner Roland Sookdeo of Sangre Grande admitted being a PNM supporter and added that he was disappointed by the party’s decision to choose someone unknown to the people to represent them.
“I believe they are making a mistake. I don’t know him, they should have chosen someone else. I don’t even see Terry as being fit for the position and everyone knows him. You go see bacchanal, eh,” Sookdeo said.
Several others all said they had never heard of Monroe and didn’t even know he is an alderman in the corporation. Two people, when interviewed, said they know Monroe to be related to a well-known money-lender in the area.
Tele Maque told Newsday he isn’t bothered by who is selected to represent the Toco/Sangre Grande people.
“I voted once in my life and that was for George Chambers (former prime minister). I’ll just say whoever is selected, I will accept, but to be honest, I only saw him (Monroe) for the first time in my life this morning in the newspapers.”
Minimart owner Bernadette Persad said she was left disappointed by MP Jennings-Smith’s performance and is hoping that if Monroe is elected, he will serve the people better.
“I don’t really know him, eh, but maybe along the way, if he comes to introduce himself, I’ll see who it is.
"It doesn’t matter, because they (political parties) are all for their own people. They don’t take care for others and we get accustomed to that. I want him to come out and meet us and let us know who he is and what he stands for.”
OUT AND ABOUT
While Newsday was doing its informal poll to gauge public sentiment, Monroe was busy on his first walkabout.
He said he was in a walkabout in Blake Avenue, Sangre Grande – where he lives – when Newsday contacted him.
Saying he was speaking with people, Monroe asked social media officer for the constituency and Valencia West councillor Simone Gill-Joseph to speak with Newsday on his behalf. Gill-Joseph said despite his youth, Monroe is a pillar of the community.
She said he has helped the less fortunate and played a significant role in the lives of many young people.
Monroe, she said, grew up in Damarie Hill, Sangre Grande with his grandfather Percy Thomas.
She said his plans for the Toco/Sangre Grande constituency will be to promote the indigenous agriculture sector to promote food security and encourage jobs in the constituency for people living there.
She said community-based tourism aimed at creating more employment opportunities, and promoting sports as a way to keep communities knitted and united, are other areas Monroe will look at.
Asked if he is worried that many may not know him and his intentions, Gill-Joseph said, “No, it’s not a concern, because he is a friend to everyone. He is a brother to most and he is a companion who the people could see being a proper representative. To the few people who don’t know him, but are willing to get to know him, he’s coming.”
Monroe was accompanied on the walkabout by Rondon, members of the PNM constituency executive and supporters.
The Toco/Sangre Grande seat could prove pivotal to the party's hopes to form the new government after the general election. Momentum shifted when the PNM suffered a setback when the Opposition UNC took control of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation after the local government elections.