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Flashback November 2019: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, right, and then Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte at a PNM Local Government meeting at the Siparia Market, Siparia. Le Hunte has been rejected by the PNM election screening committee despite being the La Brea constituency’s number one choice.

It’s shaping up to be a standoff in La Brea after 11 people, including a San Fernando councillor, submitted consent letters to become the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) La Brea nominees.

However, La Brea’s executive and some party groups still “stand strongly behind” former Minister Robert Le Hunte.

This was confirmed yesterday after the executive met Saturday to discuss last week’s call by the PNM screening team to seek nominees again. It was the second time.

Le Hunte, who was screened with incumbent MP Nicole Ollivierre two weeks ago, wasn’t accepted by the screening team. La Brea was told to widen its search.

The executive had four nominees last Monday, but still supported Le Hunte. However, the PNM’s leadership met the executive last Wednesday and told La Brea to search again.

That mandate confirmed that Le Hunte—who resigned from Government recently over a policy difference—was out as far as the screening team was concerned.

Yesterday executive chairman Wayne Wood said Saturday’s meeting, discussed the way forward on the second search.

He confirmed 11 people submitted consent letters for nomination and more are coming in.

Among those who submitted letters were South councillor Theresa Lynch and former SWRHA head, Keith McDonald.

Wood said the executive would have to hear what party groups would say, but Wood confirmed the majority of executive support remains strongly with Le Hunte.

“I understand the feeling. La Brea like any other area would like the candidate of its choice—an alternative candidate would be a compromise,” he said.

Asked if the executive may not want to compromise in order to ensure their party wins, Wood said, “I’d hope both leadership and constituency can come together as one in a decision that suits the party’s interest for PNM to be successful in general elections.”

“The quality of candidate is very important—having a deep feel for the constituency and appreciation of PNM rules,” he said.

On reports that there’s been more than one policy disagreement issue with Le Hunte in Cabinet, Wood said, “In our interviews with Robert, he assured he’s been PNM for 31 years and will continue being a life member.”

“Many new people are entering PNM and rising in the party—I’m not certain they have the pedigree he has. Maybe someone else is certain of that,” he added.

Wood said the executive had made Le Hunte aware of its continued position on him.

The executive meets later this week to assess party groups’ results and determine action. Screening for La Brea is Saturday.

Chairman begs Rowley for Le Hunte

Another executive member pointed out that if the unit submitted nominees and it still backed Le Hunte, party rules allowed for the screening team to suspend the executive if it came to that, find a candidate and run the campaign.

“But if this happens and we lose, it wouldn’t be our fault,” they added.

That official said emotions were “beginning to run high” and there might be “challenges” if the issue continued to be drawn out.

Yesterday Isaac Knutt (chairman of party Group 28) begged the PNM’s leadership to accept Le Hunte for La Brea.

“We’re searching for nominees, some have presented. If the situation continues like this we may have to find someone else. But we’re still hopeful the leadership will have a change of heart,” he said.

“Robert has unwavering support for PNM. From time to time any family has differences. I thank God for Dr (Keith) Rowley’s admirable leadership of T&T in the economic times we had in T&T and thorough COVID-19 matter. No one could have done better and we’ve haven’t heard any others saying how it could have successfully been done better. “

“We’re appealing for the leadership to be magnanimous. It’s like the prodigal son – when he erred and returned to the family, his father went to meet him.”

“So I’m begging, appealing to the PM to extend that magnanimous hand to Robert like a father with an errant son,” he said.

Executive member Donna Meijas added, “We really would like the screening team to see our view as we don’t want it to go a wrong way. Mr Le Hunte came and worked with us. We didn’t have representation since after Mr (Hedwidge) Bereaux.”

“People on the ground are talking, they might not want to vote, but we are real strong in the PNM…we want this to work. Some of the people seeking nominations aren’t experienced, some aren’t financial members, others want to now join the party….we have to stand firm.”

A female party group chairman said members hoped the PNM’s leadership was “savvy” enough to understand the area should be given their choice,” even if the person has to be a backbencher for PNM’s next term.”