Flashback 2017: Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis speaks with protesting parents of the Princes Town East Secondary School outside his constituency office.

Mark Bassant

Although MP for Moruga/Tableland Dr Lovell Francis will not be contesting the seat for the People’s National Movement in the upcoming general elections, he is confident the party can still retain the marginal seat he wrestled away from the United National Congress in the 2015 election.

“You compete to win and the PNM always competes to win and our intention is to win the seat,” Francis told Guardian Media during a brief telephone interview yesterday.

“It will depend on the constituents, it depends and how effectively we campaign. And I am of the firm belief that in any competition, particularly politics, you don’t play to lose, you play to win.”

Francis was rejected last Saturday by the PNM’s national screening committee and while his successor is yet to be named, party sources yesterday said former UNC MP Winston “Gypsy” Peters was chosen as his successor.

Recalling some of his highs in office, Francis said he was especially satisfied with assisting former housing minister Randall Mitchell with the Housing Construction Incentive Programme (HCIP), which helped lower-income persons in obtaining housing. He was also proud of the strides he made while serving as a minister in the Ministry of Education.

“Trying to bring the Ministry of Education out from the 19th to the 21st century, all of the technology and portals, platforms and software we created, has made the Ministry of Education one of the most efficient ministries in terms of procedural matters and then COVID-19 comes along and we are prepared because we have all these platforms so that education can go online and it was not a knee-jerk reaction, it was something we were planning for a number of years that will last well beyond COVID-19,” he said.

Francis admitted his five-year tenure both as a minister and MP had not been all smooth sailing.

“One of the biggest challenges is the level of poverty and poor infrastructure throughout the constituency. Now, we have expended great effort to upgrade the facilities and infrastructure in Moruga/Tableland and fix that road for a number of years but given the nature of geography and type of soil and the physical layout of the constituency, there is still much to be done sometimes it does not feel like we did enough,” he explained.

Francis’ departure is not a major surprise, however, as he has been at loggerheads with the constituency executive for most of his term and was unable to garner significant support from the party’s executive when he appeared before them for his initial screening.

In a Facebook post yesterday morning, Francis admitted it was the end of his career as MP for the area and said while things did not go to plan, he had done his best.

He said: “I worked hard every day and regardless of floods, the earthquake, fires, fiery protests, collapsed houses, and so on I was there, even if it meant being upbraided for things well beyond my control.”

The PNM won the seat in 2015 by 500-plus votes. At that time, Francis was backed and recommended for the candidacy by the executive. — with reporting by Curtis Williams