Two strikes and People’s National Movement MP Ancil Antoine has now been dropped as the party’s D’Abadie O’Meara candidate because of insensitive and objectionable statements he made about the United States during a political meeting on Saturday.
This was confirmed in a Facebook post on Sunday from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who said he withdrew Antoine from PNM’s list of candidates.
It was also confirmed in a brief statement from Antoine, who said, “I made a statement of indercretion (sic) and for this I issue an apology. I have offered to the Political Leader my withdrawal from the PNM Team for the 2020 Election.”
Antoine’s controversial remarks were made during an address at Saturday’s launch of a campaign office. In a video circulating on Facebook, Antoine is heard saying, “America is a sh**hole country. I’m sorry to say that, right?”
There was loud laughter heard from people he was addressing before he added, “And we have to make sure that we don’t allow Americans to come into Trinidad. You know all those Americans, those Trinidadians, who run into America and need to send back all their barrels and so forth. Make sure you tell them to stay out of Trinidad for the rest of the year. All your family and them.”
It was the second time Antoine’s comments had attracted a negative spotlight and Rowley immediately acted to drop Antoine from his team—two weeks before the July 17 Nomination Day for the August 10 general election.
Rowley stated on his Facebook site, “The Prime Minister has withdrawn Brig General Ancil Antoine (Ret) from the list of candidates to be presented to PNM’s Central Executive for final approval scheduled for (today).
“This candidate’s removal is as a direct consequence of insensitive and objectionable statements made by him at a campaign launch recently, such statements are not representative of the party’s or country’s position.’’
The PNM’s central executive was due to ratify election candidates today.
Antoine didn’t answer calls yesterday but he issued his statement on his Facebook—apology included.
Antoine’s remarks came at a time when T&T is trying to move on from strained relations with the US. This following UNC statements about a fuel shipment sold by Paria Fuel Trading shipment to fuel tycoon Wilmer Ruperti which is alleged to have ended up in Venezuela and the visit of Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez to meet Rowley in March—issues which the US had noted and which Government has explained, dismissing UNC interpretations. Subsequently, on World Refugee day recently, US Ambassador Joseph Mondello had praised T&T’s handling of Venezuelan refugees. (See editorial on page 12)
Only two weeks ago, Antoine’s candidacy was on the line after some constituency executive members took strong umbrage to remarks he made at an executive meeting. He’d lashed out at critics, including directly accusing some members of not supporting his candidacy and complaining of others. He’d allegedly said he would “do for all yuh” and had boasted of his military career. Some members said they were traumatised by the verbal attack.
After that, D’Abadie O’Meara’s executive was summoned to meet the PNM’s leadership. The executive was asked about the incident and it was confirmed by members. The leadership had also received a letter from a member. However, the executive “saved” Antoine when they told the leadership they were still satisfied with him.
Consequently, Antoine began campaigning this week— until last Saturday’s remarks. The executive now has to seek nominees again.
Yesterday, D’Abadie O’Meara chairman Herman Noel said, “Ancil called and told me he was dropped from the candidacy and he was taking a little ‘relax’. He sounded normal. I’m disappointed but the leadership has to do what it has to do and I’m the kind of person who supports the leadership.”
Noel said the issue of Antoine’s first set of controversial remarks hadn’t been “totally settled” but during campaigning this week, Antoine had apologised to people who’d felt offended.
“Most of them accepted his apology,” Noel added.
On why Antoine had spoken out like that again (on the US), Noel said he couldn’t speculate exactly why but felt in the military life, when one reached the senior ranks, “When you speak everyone listens…”
The executive, which thanked Antoine for his service to constituents over the past five years in a social media statement yesterday, was meeting last night to examine the way forward and awaiting word from the party on what’s expected.
Antoine, who was dismissed from the Public Utilities Ministry in 2016, wasn’t reappointed a minister but had gone on to focusing on the constituency. For screening, his and Avdene Scott’s names were submitted. PNM officials said other names may also arise ahead.
Antoine won the seat in the 2015 elections after Congress of the People’s Anil Roberts had wrested it from the PNM’s Karen Nunez-Tesheira, who held it over 2007-2010.
Only last Thursday, the PNM had completed the selection of its final area and had all 41 candidates. But last night as the UNC announced its 39 candidates, the PNM was back to 40.
PNM’S CANDIDATE SO FAR
ARIMA – Pennelope Beckles-Robinson
AROUCA/MALONEY – Camille Robinson-Regis (incumbent)
BARATARIA/SAN JUAN – Jason Williams
CARONI CENTRAL – Reyad Ali
CARONI EAST – Sharon Archie
CHAGUANAS EAST – Clarence Rambharat
CHAGUANAS WEST – Rackael Bissoon
COUVA NORTH – Sharda Satram
COUVA SOUTH – Rajendra Rampersad
CUMUTO/MANZANILLA – Ronney Lochan
D’ABADIE/ O’MEARA – TO BE FILLED
DIEGO MARTIN CENTRAL – Symon de Nobrega
DIEGO MARTIN NORTH/EAST – Colm Imbert (incumbent)
DIEGO MARTIN WEST – Keith Rowley (incumbent)
FYZABAD – Solange De Souza
LA BREA – Steve Mcletchie
LA HORQUETTA/TALPARO – Foster Cummings
LAVENTILLE EAST/MORVANT – Adrian Leonce (incumbent)
LAVENTILLE WEST – Fitzgerald Hinds (incumbent)
LOPINOT/BON AIR WEST – Marvin Gonzales
MAYARO – Bunny Mahabirsingh
MORUGA/TABLELAND – Winston Peters
NAPARIMA – Randy Sinanan
OROPOUCHE EAST – Clifford Rambharose
OROPOUCHE WEST – Lea Ramoutar
POINT FORTIN – Kennedy Richards
POINT-A-PIERRE – Daniel Dookie
POS NORTH – Stuart Young (incumbent)
POS SOUTH – Keith Scotland
PRINCES TOWN – Sharon Baboolal
SAN FERNANDO EAST – Brian Manning
SAN FERNANDO WEST – Faris Al-Rawi (incumbent)
SIPARIA – Rebecca Dipnarine
ST ANN’S EAST – Nyan Gadsby-Dolly (incumbent)
ST AUGUSTINE – Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal
ST JOSEPH – Terrence Deyalsingh (incumbent)
TABAQUITE – Michael Seales
TOBAGO EAST – Ayannna Webster-Roy (incumbent)
TOBAGO WEST – Shamfa Cudjoe (incumbent)
TOCO/SANGRE GRANDE – Roger Monroe
TUNAPUNA – Esmond Forde (incumbent)