PNM Port-of-Spain South candidate Cleopatra Borel

Back to the candidacy hunt in People’s National Movement’s Port-of-Spain South unit!

Twenty-four hours after the PNM’s leadership met the PoS South executive on Tuesday to cement Cleopatra Borel for the seat, the party’s again seeking nominations for a candidate and Borel’s out.

This as a result of a dual US/TT citizenship which Borel holds. The situation was confirmed yesterday by top PNM officials.

Last night, PNM PRO Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing confirmed nominations have indeed been reopened for the constituency but couldn’t comment beyond that.

It was only on Tuesday night that the party’s leadership met PoS South’s executive to try to allay the executive’s month-long firm objections to Borel. After Borel’s selection by PNM’s screening team on May 28, the constituency executive wrote two letters to the party seeking to meet on their concerns about her unfamiliarity with the constituency.

The meeting only occurred after the second letter was sent last week. But at Tuesday’s meeting, the leadership had assured the unit about Borel’s suitability for the candidacy. Executive members left the meeting “more or less” accepting the situation (some said) and plans were being made by a campaign team for Borel to go on a walkabout in the constituency tomorrow (Saturday).

But yesterday, the T&T Guardian was told that the party hastily decided to drop Borel as the candidate when her dual citizenship was discovered. As a result, the PoS South’s executive has been called to a meeting with party leadership today.

Yesterday, PNM campaign manager Rohan Sinanan had no comment on reports that Borel was dropped and referred questions to general secretary Foster Cummings. Cummings as he was said to be campaigning in the La Horquetta/Talparo constituency, nor did PNM chairman Colm Imbert.

Also contacted yesterday, Borel said she had no comment.

In 2000, the PNM challenged then-United National Congress members Winston “Gypsy” Peters and Bill Chaitan’s election involvement. They faced legal action following the 2000 election won by the Basdeo Panday-led UNC because they held dual citizenship at the time of the election. Peters later renounced his US citizenship by the 2001 general election and Chaitan didn’t contest again. Peters is now the PNM’s Moruga candidate for the forthcoming general elections.

In this election run-up, prospective PNM Mayaro nominee Antonio Ross, who is based in Texas, recently told the T&T he had dual US/TT citizenship but had been prepared to drop the US aspect if he had to contest. However, he couldn’t be screened virtually and withdrew.

No US citizenship queries asked

Checks with PNM officials yesterday revealed that during Borel’s May 28 screening, no direct question was asked of her about dual citizenship. The T&T Guardian was told questions to nominees normally revolve around whether they had anything in their background that could negatively affect the party.

But it was explained that constituency executives normally examined nominees – asking pointed questions – before PNM’s screening team interviewed someone.

It couldn’t be confirmed that PoS South executive had interviewed Borel. However, Borel was one of the nominees the unit presented to the screening team. Others included incumbent Marlene McDonald, who didn’t go forward, executive chairman Wendell Stephens and Brian Lewis.

The T&T Guardian asked constituency executives why Borel’s dual standing was only discovered yesterday but the query was met with a shrug and answer that some things aren’t always caught.

In late August 2017, after Robert Le Hunte was appointed Public Utilities Minister, the appointment had to be suspended until early September, after it was discovered Le Hunte was a citizen of Ghana – where he was living – and he had to give up that citizenship to hold T&T ministerial office. Le Hunte resigned as a minister last month over a policy disagreement in Cabinet. He wasn’t accepted by PNM’s screening team as a La Brea candidate.

Yesterday, PoS South chairman Stephens couldn’t comment on the Borel situation. PNM sources expect Stephens might be among new nominees.

POS South had been lobbying for a home turf candidate but on Tuesday leadership officials had assured the unit that Borel had the capacity to represent the area though she wasn’t from there. Earlier this year, Borel was considered by the party’s Mayaro unit to be a nominee but this was shelved when her name surfaced in connection with Barataria-San Juan. Jason Williams was, however, placed there.

The PNM will also meet with the Elections and Boundaries Commission at 10 am today.