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PNM Port-of-Spain South candidate Cleopatra Borel

Gail Alexander

After the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) Port-of-Spain South executive wrote the party’s leadership expressing disenchantment about prospective candidate Cleopatra Borrel – who they are yet to meet – a co-ordinator has been appointed by the PNM to bring the executive and candidate together.

This was after PoS South’s executive on Tuesday – so far unsuccessfully – sought a meeting with PNM’s leadership to discuss its disenchantment with the candidate.

Concern has been simmering in PoS South’s executive since Borrel was selected on May 28 to replace incumbent Marlene McDonald.

The latter who was nominated – but not screened – is on seven corruption charges.

On Tuesday night, a PoS South spokesman detailed concern about Olympian shot-putter Borrel, including that she wasn’t from PoS South, had no connection to it and wasn’t known there.

They also noted the executive hadn’t yet seen her, nor had the constituency.

Guardian Media confirmed that the executive’s first letter with its concerns, dated May 31 – right after Borrel selected – was delivered to Balisier House on June 1. When there was no response, a second letter dated June 15 was delivered on Tuesday.

The second letter, written on a PNM PoS South letterhead and addressed to PNM General Secretary Foster Cummings states the following:

“Reference is made to our correspondence dated May 31, 2020, on the above subject matter, Re: Disenchantment on the selection of a prospective candidate for the PoS South constituency’ which was delivered to your office on June 1, 2020, and further resubmitted via email on June 10, 2020, to which our executive is yet to receive an official acknowledgement and response on. Therefore to this end, the executive of PoS South constituency is formally requesting to have a meeting with your good self and members of our party’s leadership on the above subject matters raised in our initial letter.’’

It added: “As such for your ease of reference, please find enclosed letter of May 31, 2020, for your perusal. We trust that you will give this matter the urgent attention it deserves.”

On the executive’s disenchantment, the member who spoke Tuesday, elaborated, “We have to ask if a person born in Mayaro and who lived in the US, who has no knowledge and no nexus to POS South can understand the area’s culture, terrain and demographics. We understand the incumbent’s court issues, but the constituency chairman (Wendell Stephens) had support and he has an intimate connection to the area and served in Local Government for 20 years.”

They acknowledged that the PNM’s screening processes would have been different due to COVID-19 protocols and the executive wouldn’t have been part of the process. But they queried why a candidate was “foisted” by the screening team on PoS South while Toco and La Brea seats whose initial nominees weren’t accepted, were allowed to search for other nominees. They felt PoS South could have been asked to search again also.

The spokesman said executive members took strong umbrage to the way the situation occurred which they felt was disrespectful to them.

They added the situation’s causing concern among some activists who assist with election day machinery and “mediation” (sic) was needed for PNM to bring Borrel together with the executive.

They said people were clamouring for dialogue with the general secretary and leadership “to have a meeting of minds”. They noted PoS South voted against PNM in 1986.

We haven’t seen Borrel yet – PoS South chairman

PNM PoS South executive chairman Stephens said he’d recused himself from the candidacy matter since he was a nominee. But Stephens said he was aware the executive had written Cummings expressing concerns about the candidate.

“I wasn’t part of the executive’s meeting on the letter sent to Balisier House. I’d recused myself. However, when no response was obtained from the party on the first letter, a second one was sent recently.”

On whether Stephens shared the executive’s concerns, he cited, “…The mere fact that our people are telling me they don’t know Ms Borrel and they’re questioning her connections to the constituency,“

“I’m willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. However, the first time I met Ms Borrel was the day we went for screening.”

Saying he and the executive have yet to meet Borrel since she was selected, Stephens added, “I don’t have issues with the situation but I’d like to meet her.”

“While no date has been called for election we see other candidates – especially new ones – walking constituencies, meeting people and preparing. So we’d like to get down to work.”

Stephens said he’d received a call yesterday from PoS North’s chairman Chinua Alleyne who’d said he’d been appointed co-ordinator for PoS South’s campaign.

“Alleyne said he wanted to meet me and would contact the candidate and pull together a meeting with everyone.”

On whether the intervention will settle the issues, Stephens said, “Hopefully we’ll finally get something going in PoS South to formulate the campaign for the constituency to move on.“

Stephens said he’ll be informing the executive that the co-ordinator contacted him and the conversations which occurred with Alleyne.“

Alleyne told Guardian Media, “My role as co-ordinator for the constituency is to work together with all stakeholders to secure a victory for the PNM.