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Old guard in PNM internal polls

Saturday, August 11, 2018

After the heavy “lifting” of yesterday’s Cabinet retreat, resetting internal team focus and goals, the ruling party lets off some steam at tomorrow’s PNM Family Day.

While the event’s theme, Together We Can, seeks to reinforce a family spirit, the musical chairs involving PNM MPs might attract more attention than usual as a small reminder of the frequency of ministerial changes in recent times.

La Horquetta/Talparo MP Maxie Cuffie, who is expected to attend, isn’t among those pondering the series of ministerial shifts which affected him, however.

“I intend winning all the races,” Cuffie said yesterday.

Most recent of the changes Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley implemented last Monday—one of his most significant shifts to date—was replacing Edmund Dillon with Stuart Young in the Ministry of National Security. In what was a surprise to the Opposition also, it was as much a admission of Government’s failure regarding security as it was a signal of the intent to double down on the problem differently.

With new Young energy in National Security and similarly with Police Commissioner-designate Gary Griffith, their respective efficiencies—including the gift of the gab—are expected to up PNM’s crime-fighting image in the lead-up to elections.

Dillon’s performance apart, Young’s inexperience might have counted less than him being viewed as a better fit for certain reasons. Clashes had occurred between Dillon and Griffith since 2015.

In addition, Young is known as a fixture at the side of his boss, Dr Rowley, as well as a proxy of sorts and thus better able to “manage” the required interactions with Griffith.

However, because National Security is such a crucial portfolio, the wisdom of appending it to Young’s two other equally important portfolios in the Prime Minister’s Office and Communication is left to be seen.

The Government is already challenged in messaging, as the steady Opposition spotlight and scrutiny show. How much of Young’s post- Cabinet media briefings will be devoted to dispelling “fake news” as opposed to presenting information and facilitating transparency remains ahead.

His appointment begs the question of whether there is no other talent in Cabinet—or attracted to it—who could have been sourced for National Security as a dedicated position.

How the PNM’s base views yet another frontline position for multi-manager Young is another issue, as well as how he juggles the three jobs with his fourth post, that of PNM Public Relations Officer.

Young’s profile and personality pluses had ensured limited contenders for that post. Whether that changes in next week’s nomination exercise for PNM’s September 16 internal elections remains to be seen.

While incumbents are defending posts or seeking others, challenges are looming in several of the 15 executive posts: elections and field officers, general secretary and chairman. Some challenges are expected from previous officials of the Manning PNM.

Contesting the social media officer’s post against incumbent Ronald Huggins is Dane Wilson, who was a member of the party’s first social media unit. He decided to contest as he feels the PNM “needs to get back on track and get its message across. That’s not being done effectively.”

He explained: “PNM’s base feels disconnected from decision-making processes, alienated—as if what they’re saying isn’t being heard.”

Wilson feels while PNMites will welcome Griffith’s appointment, “It won’t change how members feel. They want PNM to operate as it promised while in Opposition, particularly with opportunities. Whether they’re right or not, people feel like PNM has been hijacked. If some contest posts it is because we all want to return PNM to togetherness in the movement.

“PNM is a grassroots party—not elitist. People want to help the leader. We recognise he needs that support. Recent by-elections tell us the party needs to embrace the Mariano Brownes, the Nafeesa Mohammeds, the Nileung Hypolites, in this critical stage facing national elections ahead.

“Just as a Cabinet retreat was done yesterday, PNM’s outgoing executive needs the same. The party has its own identity and needs to be rejuvenated.”

Tomorrow’s PNM Family Day, under the auspices of the current executive and on the eve of a nomination exercise which could produce some party division, might be timely for a united party spirit and an expanded one as the Chaguanas venue denotes.

Whether it achieves the rejuvenation and reinforcing that appears necessary will be fully known by September 16.


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