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Manning’s reign ends
Former People’s National Movement (PNM) leader and Prime Minister Patrick Manning is out. Young attorney Randall Mitchell is in.
Manning’s history-making tenure as the longest serving Member of Parliament came to a premature end last night when Mitchell, a 36-year old attorney, was named as his successor and the candidate for the 2015 general election following the screening of candidates at the PNM’s San Fernando East constituency.
But there was no rejoicing in the PNM camp, which remains divided between loyalty for the party and their former MP and political leader, who failed to show up for the screening in spite of requests for nomination extensions so he could throw his hat into the ring.
Long, unsmiling faces greeted the much anticipated news which came from Anthony Clarke, the constituency’s PRO, who was joined by general secretary Ashton Ford for the announcement after almost one-and-a-half hours of deliberation.
Ford first announced that the committee had taken a decision after deliberations and interviewing the four candidates.
“Mr Manning did not show up for screening,” he said.
Clarke then announced Mitchell as the prospective candidate for San Fernando East.
Asked about Manning’s decision to withdraw, Ford said they were told by the chairman of the San Fernando East constituency that he had a meeting with Manning earlier in the day and he decided to withdraw his candidacy. Ford said no reason was given.
He said Rowley announced during the process that the party would pay due regard and honour to Manning at an appropriate time.
He said its focus at this time was on the hectic battle ahead and the selection of candidates for the 41 constituencies. Twenty-six candidates have been selected thus far, he said. Screening will continue after Carnival he also noted.
Among the dissatisfied executive was Eber Steele, one of three nominees who were rejected at the last San Fernando East screening exercise.
Steele joined the circle as prayers were said for Mitchell but earlier was very critical of the screening process, saying he was still waiting for an official response form the party’s executive that he was no longer eligible to be screened for another time.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who headed the screening committee, did not make an appearance before the media, which outnumbered the number of people who showed up to support the five candidates who were due to be screened: San Fernando Councillor Rondell Donowa, former Deputy Mayor of San Fernando Malaika Blair and former San Fernando West MP and present Deputy Mayor Junia Regrello.
Regrello, who also unsuccessfully screened for San Fernando West, was in and out before the screening committee in less than five minutes. He did not wait around for the results.
Manning was the fifth candidate, but when former councillor Sharon Looney called his name to appear before the committee five times around 7 pm, he was a no show.
PNM stalwarts, who did not want to be named, said at an executive meeting earlier in the day at the San Fernando East Constituency office, members were informed that Manning had decided to withdraw from the race.
Some said Manning, who suffered two strokes since his defeat in the May 2010 polls, indicated it would be humiliating for him to walk up the stairs to get to the screening room.
When the rumours started circulating in the early afternoon, a call was made to Manning’s home. His wife, Hazel, answered and informed the media who called that she was on her way out, not to the screening. Asked if Mr Manning was coming she said he would be better able to answer that question.
Following the announcement, Mitchell said he was humbled to be named Manning’s successor. He said Manning was his mentor and saw a continuing role for him in the politics in T&T, especially in the PNM as he was a very resourceful person.
He said from today his first order of business would be to thank the party group, executive and Manning for the support and after that work for the constituency and constituents to the best of his ability.
PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi said he was happy for the faith the party had reposed in a number of young people and four attorneys, including himself, Mitchell, Terry Jadoonan, who has been selected to contest the Oropouche East constituency, and Neil Mohammed for Pointe-a-Pierre. He said they intended to bring the entire southern areas seriously to the forefront of development.
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