Former public utilities minister Robert Le Hunte.

Four new People’s National Movement nominees in La Brea have lost out for nomination to former minister Robert Le Hunte, who was rejected by the party’s screening team last week.

The PNM’s La Brea executive now continues to firmly endorse Le Hunte for the area’s candidacy after a meeting on Monday, where he got the majority of party group and executive support out of the four nominees. And members of the executive may now consider resigning if he isn’t chosen as the candidate.

This arose even as the T&T Guardian also confirmed Le Hunte has been approached to contest the seat as an independent candidate if he isn’t selected by PNM’s screening team. La Brea is one of several seats for which the PNM has to complete candidate selections.

Le Hunte resigned from Government three weeks ago over a conflict concerning a policy for WASA. He’d sought nomination for La Brea four days before resigning and received support from 16 of La Brea’s 19 party groups and was the executive’s recommended nominee. But when he was screened last week – with incumbent MP Nicole Olivierre – neither was approved and the executive was advised to expand nominee search. Since then, lobbying for him has intensified towards Thursday’s screening of La Brea’s fresh nominees.

La Brea executive chairman Wayne Wood said on Monday four nominees were received and party groups voted on them. He said the nominees and the support they received were: Shivonne David-Spencer (votes from six party groups), former Fyzabad councillor Maurice Alexander (one party group), Neil Derrick (one party group) and Germain Bovell-Pitt (two). Wood said Le Hunte got support from nine party groups.

Wood added, “From that voting, we stand fully behind Robert. Our 24-member executive also voted 21/3 for Robert. Three people were absent.”

On whether Le Hunte will be sent for screening on Thursday, he said he’ll communicate the results of yesterday’s deliberations to the party. Wood said a petition for Le Hunte was also heading for 2,000 signatories. This will also be sent to Balisier House.

La Brea executive member David Pickford said if the area didn’t get Le Hunte, the executive may well consider resigning from their posts – but not from the party.

He couldn’t reply on whether he’d support Le Hunte if the latter contested independently. Pickford didn’t expect Le Hunte to leave PNM since he noted Le Hunte said – after resigning – that he remains PNM.

“But he’s a person who can get support. To this end, we’ll go straight down with him to (election) Nomination Day, if that’s the way the (selection) situation goes,” Pickford said.

But Pickford didn’t expect Le Hunte to leave PNM since he noted Le Hunte had said after resigning that he’s staying with the party.

On Monday, some PNM La Brea activists also issued a statement requesting that “the olive branch be extended to allow Le Hunte to be accepted.

“This will allow for the reciprocation of love La Brea has shown PNM over the years. We’re aware of certain reasons being circulated for the screening team’s decision. But we, the constituency, humbly ask that the subsequent decision benefit the 30,000-plus people of this community in which over 65 per cent are disenchanted youth. We ask that it not be based on a situation which we believe is of an isolated nature. It’s of paramount importance that whatever decision is made should eliminate all doubts and ensure PNM returns to office and Dr Rowley be given the opportunity to continue his good work.”

Contacted Monday on if he’d support another candidate who may be chosen for La Brea, Le Hunte said, “At this point, my focus is still on winning the nomination. I’m confident of getting it – I’m not entertaining negative thoughts.”

There has been a threat of supporters not voting if Le Hunte wasn’t chosen. Le Hunte was asked if, as PNM vice-chairman, he supports these threats.

He said, “I support the party and still feel PNM’s response is the best hope for T&T. As party vice-chairman, I could never condone a situation asking people not to vote for PNM. But we must examine future success following trends in Local Government (LG) elections.

“I chaired PNM’s (Siparia) Local Government team. We lost one seat, the margin of loss widened in Rousillac. This stemmed from disenchanted supporters who didn’t come out. Success ahead will depend on PNM being very united and having all hands on deck – especially when T&T faces what’s ahead economically.”

On whether he’ll serve in a PNM opposition if the party loses elections, Le Hunte said, “I’m applying for one job – to be MP. I’ll serve La Brea’s people whether in government or opposition, whether minister or not. The thought of serving in opposition is a negative I’m not entertaining.”

He said he was heartened by recent support “despite people with their own political ambitions and external motivations.”