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Toco/Sangre Grande MP Glenda Jennings-Smith

SHALIZA HASSANALI

The Toco/Sangre Grande constituency executive of the People’s National Movement (PNM) is supporting former councillor Lorraine Heath as their choice of candidate in the upcoming general elections over incumbent MP Glenda Jennings-Smith.

The decision to support Heath was taken recently according to the chairman of the Toco/Sangre Grande party group 12 and elections officer of the constituency executive John Mason.

Heath, who has a law degree, works as Corporate Secretary at the Land Settlement Agency.

She won the Sangre Grande North East seat for the PNM in the 2013 Local Government General Election.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Mason told Guardian Media that Heath won 52 per cent of the executive’s votes while activist Roger Monroe attained 36 per cent.

He said Jennings-Smith got the least support.

The constituency has 27 party groups.

Mason said although a date for screening of the three nominees is yet to be announced, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has the prerogative to select who he wants to represent Toco/Sangre Grande seat which is considered a marginal constituency.

In last December’s local government election, the PNM won three electoral districts in Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC) to the UNC’s five.

The UNC was able to snatch districts Sangre Grande North West and Manzanilla from the PNM, taking control of the corporation.

Former chairman of the SGRC Terry Rondon had blamed the party’s poor choice of candidates for their defeat at the polls.

Mason said the PNM cannot afford to make the same mistakes again at this year’s crucial general election and needed to select a strong nominee who the people favoured and will rally behind.

“Hopefully we have learned from our lessons from the 2019 local government election. The PNM loss the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation to the UNC because the party selected the wrong candidates…candidates who the people did not want nor supported.”

He said the party paid an ultimate price for their bad judgement.

Mason said he was not surprised that Heath who is highly qualified and known as a people’s person got the majority backing from the constituency’s executive and party groups.

“Nobody is really supporting her (Jennings-Smith). I hate for them things to happen but that is the reality.”

Mason said the executive wanted new blood and someone who can present and faithfully serve the PNM for the next five years.

“We don’t want the constituency to be a marginal seat again. So the first thing we had to do was select a person who can build the institution. Once you build the institution your party support base will be there.”

He said Heath has been very active in the constituency which she grew up in.

“She continues to work in the constituency. Lorraine never walked away from her responsibility to service and that is what the people have recognised and want. We had been asking her to throw her hat in the ring for quite a while now.”

Mason said Heath filed her nominations papers on Wednesday night.

“If she had done that earlier she would have secured more support from the executives. We had been trying to convince her for weeks to file her papers. And finally she made up her mind at the eleventh hour.”

He said the executive also had their eyes on councillor Rondon to represent the party at the polls.

However, Mason said Rondon who is recuperating from back surgery had to decline.

A source in the United National Congress camp said Nicholson Sookoo, Sookram Ali and a female banker filed nomination papers weeks ago to contest the constituency but are yet to be screened by its committee.