Member of Parliament for Moruga-Tableland Dr Lovell Francis will not be returning to the House of Representatives after the next general election as the People’s National Movement (PNM) national screening committee headed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has rejected his candidacy.
On Saturday, Francis faced the PNM screening committee although he was the third most favoured candidate by the constituency executive. After Moruga-Tableland nominees were screened no decision was announced. Instead, officials from the unit were asked to meet with party executive officials
Sources tell Guardian Media that the members of screening committee did not mince words with Francis and expressed disappointment that five years after taking charge of the constituency, he had made it more marginal and had not been able to unite the area.
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 on Tuesday 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.”
It appears his post on things beyond his control was a reference to the complaint in the constituency that while he had brought infrastructure projects, almost all the contractors and workers were from outside of the area.
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. But this time round, officials said the executive and majority of party groups hadn’t recommended Francis but a retired teacher who worked on Francis’ campaign in 2015 and had strong following in the area. There are 28 party groups.
Other nominees included a former councillor, young activist and two others (all male).
PNM officials said it was felt that Francis hadn’t been “fully effective” in the term although they said he’d been excellent with getting infrastructural development in the seat. They, however, noted when Francis entered as MP, the area had two councillors and two aldermen on the Princes Town Corporation but this later slid down.
In 2019 Local Government elections, the party lost all councillors in that area and only got one alderman. Officials are concerned he “wasn’t fully connected with the constituency’s political structure.”
“There were also claims about attendance at constituency and executive meetings. Certain polls were also done in the area that showed the seat wasn’t getting the support,” they added.
Contacted on the issue, Moruga constituency chairman David Trim declined comment, only saying the screening committee held the ultimate responsibility to choose a candidate they had confidence in to ensure victory at the polls.
It is also understood that the PNM MP for Point Fortin, retired Brig Edmund Dillon, has also been rejected by the screening committee.
Mitchell congrulates Manning
Francis is the second incumbent MP to lose favour with their constituency executive and PNM screening committee thus far.
San Fernando East MP Randall Mitchell also fell out of favour with the executive and has been replaced by Brian Manning, son of former deceased prime minister and party leader Patrick Manning, for the forthcoming general election.
Both men were screened on Saturday by the screening committee and Manning was given the nod.
In a statement on Monday evening, Mitchell congratulated Manning on his selection and said he would continue to support the party to ensure the seat was retained. He also thanked Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for allowing him to serve in the Ministries of Public Administration, Housing and Tourism, and his Cabinet colleagues for their support during his tenure.