“[…] it is incorrect to conclude, as Dr [Hamid] Ghany has and Dr [Denise] Angus has stated, since the latter has not received any correspondence from the party, that she is still a member of the Movement…
“[…] it is clear that Dr Angus’ action falls in the category of automatic expulsion and not in the area of falsehood or misinformation…”
The following Letter to the Editor about the expulsion of the former presiding officer of theTobago House of Assembly (THA), Dr Denise Angus, from the People’s National Movement was submitted to Wired868 by former general secretary of the party Ashton Ford:
On 25 January 2021, the People’s National Movement (PNM) will celebrate its 65th anniversary as a powerful political organisation in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Between January 1956 and January 2021, the party has demonstrated its stability through the strict adherence to its constitution, which has had several amendments along the way.
Therefore, it is always painfully necessary to set the record straight whenever someone outside the party, especially a high-profile person like Professor Hamid Ghany, attempts to interpret the party’s constitution.
In his column, A PNM Independent, in the Sunday Guardian on 10 January 2021, Prof Ghany makes reference to the current situation in Tobago where former presiding officer of Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and high-ranking party member, Dr Denise Angus, is contesting the elections as an independent candidate. He asks: “Is the fact that there has been no disciplinary action against Angus running as an independent suggestive of a softer approach to avoid making her a victim in the middle of an election?”
He also asserts that ‘she had received no correspondence to the effect of any disciplinary action being taken against her.’
I wish to advise Prof Ghany and the national community that the party’s constitution clearly states:
Article 22—Discipline: “Any member of the Movement who shall, in rivalry or opposition to any party candidate or nominee, or otherwise defiance of, or contrary to any party directive or declared policy or principle or announcements, or to the interest of the Movement;
“A) publicly announce his intention to participate in or contest, or be a candidate or nominee for election to a seat or on any municipal corporation or other public body;
“or B) accept nomination or appointments to any such municipal corporation or public body shall thereupon cease to be a member of the movement and shall not subsequently be or entitled to be a member of the movement except after the expiration of five years from the date of such announcements or participation or acceptance or consent or otherwise as the case may be as determined by the General Council and then only upon the approval of and on such terms and conditions as the General Council may prescribe.”
The constitution also states: “Any member of the Movement who has been suspended or expelled by the General Council shall have the right to appeal to the next annual convention according to the procedure prescribed in the regulations.”
Therefore, it is incorrect to conclude, as Dr Ghany has and Dr Angus has stated, since the latter has not received any correspondence from the party, that she is still a member of the Movement. In light of Dr Ghany’s comments, those by other political commentators, and the misinformation in the social media, I wish to provide the historical facts in relation to the party’s constitution and compliance with it.
Arima Borough Council 1957
Five PNM members of the Arima Borough Council disobeyed a directive from the party to reappoint then-mayor Francis Subero as mayor of the borough. Rupert Clovis was elected the mayor, which resulted in the automatic expulsion of the five ‘rebels’, as the party described them.
ANR Robinson 1970
When ANR Robinson formed the Democratic Action Committee (DAC) in 1970, his expulsion was automatic.
House of Representatives 1971–1976
When Roy Richardson, MP for Point Fortin, and Horace Charles, MP for Siparia, crossed the floor and became the official opposition in parliament, their expulsion took immediate effect.
House of Representatives 1976–1981
The expulsion of Hector Mc Clean took immediate effect when he crossed the floor during a sitting of the House of Representatives between the period 1976 and 1981. He later joined the UNC and was elected Speaker of the House under a UNC government.
Wilton Hinds, the MP for Laventille for the period 1971–1976, did not get the nod to contest the 1976 general elections for the PNM. He was expelled forthwith when he fought the elections as an independent candidate. He mustered 486 votes and he declared then that ‘I would rather die like a lion than live like a puppy dog.’
Karl Hudson Phillips, Ferdie Ferreira and Ivan Williams 1980
In 1980, two top PNM members and close confidantes of the then political leader and prime minister, Dr Eric Williams, Ferdie Ferreira and Ivan Williams joined with former attorney general Karl Hudson Phillips to form the Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR). They were immediately expelled.
House of Representatives 1995–2000
When Rupert Griffith and Vincent Lasse crossed the floor in the House of Representatives during the period 1995–2000 and joined the UNC, their expulsion was automatic with immediate effect.
The most recent case of automatic expulsion was the current MP for Mayaro who was automatically expelled in 2015 when he announced his candidacy for the UNC.
There were several other instances where members either joined other political parties or refused to carry out party directives. Some members re-joined the party, like Ferdie Ferreira who retained his membership in 1991 when Morris Marshall was the general secretary and advocated for his return.
The party also had to deal with members of parliament and officers of the Movement using their positions to undermine legitimate party members by carrying misinformation or as commonly referred to as ‘bad-talking members’ to the political leader.
Then political leader and prime minister, Dr Williams, dealt with that scenario publicly when he addressed the 14th Annual Convention of the party, having declared: “It is certainly not sufficient to have someone whose only sense of politics is either to carry reports back to the political leader, most of which he would discard in advance as mere gossip or to operate on the basis of the opposition parties of simple and cheap political intrigue and chicanery.”
Under the circumstances, it is clear that Dr Angus’ action falls in the category of automatic expulsion and not in the area of falsehood or misinformation. Stanford Callender, chairman of the PNM Tobago Council, is on solid ground when he told the national community that there is absolutely no doubt Dr Angus is automatically expelled. His statements are in keeping with the party’s constitution.