Chairman Penny Beckles

Mrs. Penelope Beckles
Mrs. Penelope Beckles

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 16, 2011

Although I will not be at the PNM’s Party Convention next week, I support Penelope Beckles to be the party’s next chairman because she is best suited for the job. The PNM must throw forth a new group of leaders whom the people can believe in and who can chart a new direction for the country if it wishes to regain the leadership of the society.

I am not impressed fully with the slate of persons who are offering themselves or are being offered for the leadership of the party. They do not represent the best the party has to offer. And while the present leadership cannot be blamed for this shortcoming I would have been happier with a stronger intellectual and politically-savvy team. As a faithful party member I will support who ever comes out victorious and do everything to ensure that we ready ourselves for the general election in 2016.

As we face the future, it is imperative that the leaders of the party and its membership realize it cannot continue business as usual or hope that the model that got us through the first fifty years is necessarily the model that will get us through the next ten years. Old tactics and worn out paradigms must give way to new realities and appreciate the direction in which modern politics is moving.

The party must discard the fallacy that it must have an East Indian chairman if it hopes to win over the East Indian population in the next election. The world is dissatisfied with ethnic politics and is tired of the old notion of one-man-ism. The new political rule seems to be this: if you cannot do the job step aside and let those who can do it. That is the story of the Middle East today. It is the lesson that Trinidad and Tobago is learning. I don’t care how much Trinidad and Tobago loves Kamla and her crew if they do not deliver by 2016 the people will put another government in place to run its affairs.

The vast amount of citizens, particularly the younger ones, does not care whether the alternative is led by an East Indian or an African. In 2016 they will look for knowledge, efficiency, and the ability to mobilize people to realize their better selves. If the PNM can do this then it will be victorious. If they determine that the PNM cannot do the job they will vote for the better alternative. Ethnic politics will continue to subside. As the years go by, it will become a less important factor in electing candidates. PNM should anticipate this eventuality and select the best possible person to run its affairs.

Penny Beckles is a more attractive alternative than Franklin Khan who held the position before. He did not distinguish himself, was not innovative and too beholden to Mr. Manning. He is not likely to change his modus operandi if he is elected a second time to the post. His close alignment to Keith Rowley suggests he will not be an independent chairman.

PNM needs a Chairman who is not beholden to the political leader. He or she should be an independent person who is willing to call the shots as she sees them and take on the political leader when it benefits the party and/or the people.

Penny has served her party with distinction. She has accomplished much but is too inclined to stay in the background. She will have to change this posture if she hopes to be successful. She will have to be more assertive recognizing that the political leader must not and should not always be the only spokesperson of the party.

The PNM has had a surfeit of male leaders. As the second woman chairman of the party she would empower a new cadre of persons within and outside the party. Women—they have been called some derogatory names—have always been the heart and soul of the party. They kept the party alive and stayed in the background while the men ramajeyed in the foreground. After 54 years they ought to become a permanent fixture in the party’s leadership. Penny will give substance to the truth that women are the rock upon which the PNM stands.

The party has not given Penny the appreciation she deserves. In spite of her strength in Arima and the country in general she was passed over as a candidate in the last election. She had the courage to tell Mr. Manning that she would not accept an ambassadorial position which he could not give but which would have had the effect of sidelining her and making her null and void politically.

We are willing to laud Dr. Rowley for standing up to Mr. Manning’s dictatorial behavior. We are not willing to pay the same respect to Penny. She is the only other person in the PNM as far as I know who sought to keep her dignity when so many others were bowing down to Manning and worshipping him. In her own quiet way she demonstrates an integrity that is important for the new PNM.

Dr. Rowley should not use his influence, directly or indirectly, to deny Penny this important position. Were he to do so it would suggest to the larger community that PNM is still entrenched in its old ways in which the leader uses his influence to deny party members the right to select persons who are best equipped to take the PNM in a new direction.

Penny represents a fresh, new female presence in the party that we need as this time. She is not always forceful enough and is not as clear as to where she wishes to take the party. She must stop deferring to Dr. Rowley and stake out a position that is in the best interest of the party. The party must not repeat the one-man-ism that led inevitable to the death of democracy within the party and its discouraging members to differ with their leaders. Penny must lead this fight within the new PNM.

Selecting Penny as the chairman of the PNM will make a huge difference in its future fortunes. It will give new meaning to woman power and equity within the party. Her quiet, forceful presence will ensure the party’s renewal and propel it into the future. PNM members must have the courage to elect her as their new chairman.

11 thoughts on “Chairman Penny Beckles”

  1. Where were you a year ago when she was refused as a representative of her district. How times have changed. And regardless what is said the PP government has shaken T&T to its roots. I hope good fruit falls off.

  2. Well said Professor. I think if the PNM doesn’t change its leadership, they will be no better off in 2016. Mrs Beckles-Robinson will definetly be a signal to the people that the PNM is ready for real change. She represents the integrity and honesty that a lot of the the old school PNMers don’t seem to have any more.

  3. Well said again professor. She does not have the hair and physical characteristics that will endear her to PP pundits, but we we know why.

    The PNm need to go block by block among its constituency and point out the familiar Panday like trend since the PP came to power. The Pernicuous Pretenders of inclusiveness have already shown how impossible is it for some people to change. Time coming and we keeping watch. Go forth strong Penelope, you are the Harriet Tubman of T&T, leading your people through an over ground railroad to freedom.

  4. Wishful thinking. That was what the slave master and his acolytes were saying to Harriet Tubman, so the genes have been sustained across the centuries. We have overcome more intelligent and strong oppressors, we will overcome the the pretenders to the throne

  5. Hogwash Mr Williams. Welcome to the “PRESENT”, the past is past and long forgotten. The time of the PEE ON EM is dead, we overcame.

  6. You overcame what. In every country where you rule there is marginalization and discrimination against those who were there before you. The only thing you overcame is the natural suspicion of some people who, in a moment of hopeful reaching out, made the mistake of thinking the words of inclusion that were emanating from mouths such as yours, were the modern day melody of the Pied Piper of Hamlin leading children to their demise.

    The present is a T&T where racist who were hiding under the rugs now spring into the open to shout their “awee time now” ignorance. But that present is opening the eyes of even those who were misled. They are seeing the shedding of the fake skin and the slivering apparition that was hiding under it. And like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela over came your symbiotic kin the theatres of their activism, their equivalent in T&T will rise to the occassion in this twin island republic to which our ancestors were brought in bondage.

  7. I hope there would arise a quality of leadership that looks past the political play dating and seek to address the real needs of the underserved no matter their race. If we could realize that in order to serve patriotically we do not need an elected position but just an open caring heart. In this type of service, servants are elevated by the people served. This level of leadership is longed for and sorely needed to bridge the racial divide. My Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Creole and African fore parents who all claimed Trinidadian Citizenship would agree with me.

  8. The racial divide will persist as long as there continues to be Nelson Eye given to cultural precepts that promote clannism, not based on nationality, but based on the historical stratification of people based on interpretation of religous creeds. People are not born with ignorant prejudice regardless of their origins. They learn it on the knees of their nurturers and at gatherings, familial and otherwise.

    I refuse to buy into any argument that refuses to examine racial divisions based on the realities of culture and history. We examine everything else along those lines, but when it comes to racial prejudice we get into this politically correct mode of protecting sacred cows rather than telling it like it is.

    Africans in the Caribbean are descendants of people who suffered a holocaustic racial experience. Africans did not come to this area with precepts that they were naturally superior to any group, or with any cultural or religious belief systems that lend to that interpretation or promotion. Africans over the years have reacted to a continued experience of prejudice and racism with like actions, and that cannot be excused or justified. But you cannot examine any prejudiced expressions on part of Africans without a like examination of the antecedents to such expressions.

    When you wish to find a remedy to an ailment you have to seek out and diagnose the source of the ailment. Racial prejudice is a sickness, a debilitating psychological traite that has inundated cultures, and cemented attitudes and behaviours among many. The problem is that these attitudes and behaviours have become so ego fulfilling and ethnically enhancing that people are reluctant to give them up. What they want in effect, is to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be able to hold on to those crutches that make them feel superior, while prostulating empty and fake interest in inclusion. They will need to abandon those crutches before being perceived to have legitimate interest in national inclusiveness. They have to walk the walk.

    1. Well said.

      May I also ask, are the possibilities either that they walk the walk … or walk the plank?

  9. You certainly may, and I totally agree that walking the plank should be the alternative. Tolerance and fighting for equality are not mutually exclusive undertakens. martin Luther King walked that line, as did Mandela and all of the historical African activists and freedom fighters. We are the only group in this world that seem to be predisposed to feeling uncomfortable doing what all others do. In that context we have become played and guilt tripped into silenced while others triumphalistically beat their ethnic and racial drums of war.

    Again, and I will continue to assert this with no apology whatsoever. Racial prejudice was not brought to this region by Africans. Racial prejudice was not brought into this world by Africans. We are not nexussed to any historical religious or cultural belief system that judges humans based on how they look, the color of their skins, or the texture of their hair. Those things were imported into T&T and the Caribbean by migrants who arrived under circumstances outside of enslavement. We must not, I repeat, we must not go along with this Freudian displacement strategy where people engage in pawning traits that have been with them for generations prior to arriving in the Caribbean, off upon us. The goal is to create a paradigm that changes racial prejudice and racism from the current defined state, to one where it means publicly exposing the expression of these traits by others.

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