Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced today the People’s National Movement (PNM) has ‘withdrawn’ retired Brigadier General Ancil Antoine as its candidate for the D’Abadie/O’Meara constituency, due to ‘insensitive and objectionable statements’ made at his campaign launch.
Antoine was the sitting Member of Parliament for the area, after winning the seat in 2015.
Rowley’s decision to dismiss Antoine, a hero during the 1990 insurrection, came within hours of his campaign launch as the MP attempted to favourably compare the prime minister’s leadership through the Covid-19 pandemic with that of United States president Donald Trump.
“[…] We are recovering from it due to the excellent leadership of Dr Keith Rowley and his government,” said Antoine, at The Red House, Banyan Boulevard, Malabar. “[…] He virtually is a scientist, he has respect for scientists. So when the doctors and so forth said ‘follow that’ he did.
“It is a great contrast to president Trump who has gone against his scientists and his experts and now America is a shit-hole country. Sorry to say that.”
By this morning, Antoine apologised. But it was too late. Rowley shared the PNM’s decision on Facebook.
“The PNM leadership has withdrawn Brigadier General Ancil Antoine (Ret) from the list of candidates to be presented to the central executive for final approval, scheduled for tomorrow,” stated Rowley. “This candidate’s removal is as a direct consequence of insensitive and objectionable statements made by him at a campaign launch recently, such statements are not representative of our party or country’s position.”
It is not the first time that Rowley has fired his brigadier. In the prime minister’s first Cabinet reshuffle in 2016, just a year after taking office, Antoine was replaced by Fitzgerald Hinds as Minister of Public Utilities. He remained without a portfolio for the PNM’s remaining four years in office.
However, Antoine was able to garner enough support within the community to again get the nod to represent D’Abadie/O’Meara. Once his nomination was secured, leaked information from a constituency meeting—published in the Trinidad Express by political journalist Ria Taitt—suggested that Antoine used the occasion to attack persons he felt gave him a hard time.
“All of yuh, I was going to destroy all of allyuh—allyuh better thank [constituency chairman] Herman Noel,” Antoine was quoted as saying. “Allyuh better thank God for Herman Noel who tell me to hold my hand. Because I was going to destroy allyuh. And I going to win [the seat] too!”
Antoine survived an internal probe into his comments and allegedly aggressive behaviour at that meeting. But he only made it as far as his campaign launch, when his jab at the United States proved to be a step too far.
The UNC candidate for D’Abadie/O’Meara is Maurice Hoyte.