New political leader of People's National Movement (PNM) Dr Keith Rowley, pledging to do things differently, has urged members to "speak up" without fear of victimisation or spite. "This is an era of change...it's the 21st century," Rowley said yesterday in his inaugural address after being installed as leader of the 54-year-old party. Rowley became the PNM's fourth leader at a function at City Hall, Port-of-Spain. Red-dressed PNM delegates from various constituencies packed the auditorium to witness the event.
Absent was previous leader, Patrick Manning, who led the party since 1987. Rowley, who joined PNM in 1974, spoke on the theme "Reflection to Resurgence." He said: "As of this evening there is a new leader–not a new party–who will do some things differently, hopefully do everything better. That is what progress is all about."
He said the party had tasted humiliating defeat on May 24, but added that there was no shame in such defeat. "The only shame is if, as we stumbled and fell, that we don't get up immediately, dust ourselves off and be ready for the next battle." Adding that he had visited and mobilised all but two seats recently, Rowley said: "The party is alive, well and raring to go, ready to take up battle..." Saying the PNM was not the dominant force it used to be, Rowley added that the party would not ignore the past, surrender the future or spend time looking backward or pointing fingers. He assured that the party would do what was required to make it more attractive. Rowley noted that in 2007, PNM won 26 seats although 600,000 people did not vote for the party.
Also on May 24, the party lost additional seats. "We have to ensure we make our house so welcoming that others who didn't see it as a place of political rest will do so now," he added. He said the PNM had an assignment to provide T&T with alternative government in the shortest time and would have to examine itself at all levels from headquarters to constituency. Saying he would encourage PNMites to say their piece, Rowley added: "If I have something to tell you, I will tell you myself. "I will not be afraid to tell you something unpleasant, if it is required," he said. "I will encourage you to be productively critical, as long as it is respectful and without malice. "So you could never say that under my leadership, General Council is a place where nobody talks."
"So if you send moo-moos to General Council, don't blame me. "If they don't report to council, don't blame me. We'll blame you. "We'll give you full reign in deepening democracy of the party." He said party units would get leadership from Balisier House and would have the authority to deal with their own affairs at constituency level. Rowley also said the PNM's constitution might have to be reviewed to allow the party to better relate to the population. He urged the party to make space for new people who can help PNM propel intellectual discourse anew.
Blows for PP on smelter job loss
The People's Partnership Government has not shown any empathy for those who lost jobs at the halted aluminium smelter or for the thousands who will lose jobs at that location in the future, PNM leader Keith Rowley said yesterday. Rowley defended the smelter project which the PNM government had started. He said the PNM would take a position on industrialisation if it had to ensure the process survives the "onslaught of those who feel it is fashionable to stop everything." "We wait to see what will happen with the smelter...we know it's a campaign promise that it will be shut down," Rowley said. "We observe part of it was shut down and 150 jobs lost." He said the PNM supported the project since it made sense and could improve the quality of life. Rowley said the PNM did not want to stay in Opposition too long, "because we know we can do it better."