Robert Le Hunte

Robert Le Hunte 

Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

THE decision stands.

Find a new candidate for La Brea.

And so, the hunt is on.

This, following a meeting between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and five members of La Brea constituency executive on Wednesday.

Only five members are allowed to meet because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The constituency executive which had voted overwhelmingly in favour of former public utilities minister Robert Le Hunte twice, at separate meetings, had hoped for a resolution to the issue of Le Hunte’s candidacy.

But at the end of Wednesday’s meeting with Political Leader Dr Keith Rowley there was no change in Le Hunte’s political fortunes.

He had been rejected by the Screening Committee last Thursday, at which time both he and incumbent Nicole Olivierre were screened and neither gained the nod from the Screening Committee.

Four new nominees had emerged by Tuesday but the constituency executive remained steadfast in its support for Le Hunte.

On Tuesday, it voted overwhelmingly, 21 for/three absentees, to stick with its recommendation to the Screening Committee that Le Hunte be the candidate.

The executive showed no desire to consider any of the new nominees who offered themselves.

It was at this stage that a meeting was sought with Rowley in the hope of resolving the issue.

But at Wednesday’s meeting the executive members were told that the instruction of the Screening Committee to undertake a wider search with a view to finding an acceptable candidate, stands.

The mandate was reinforced.

“There is no turning back,” one attendee said yesterday. “Once confidence and trust are lost, it is hard to return. They (confidence and trust) will have to be re-earned.”

Other sources agreed, stressing that in the event of a close electoral outcome, trust and confidence were critical.

Dependability in a tight outcome was a consideration in the rejection of Le Hunte.

Loyal party member

He has stated he has been a loyal party member for 31 years. La Brea is a solid PNM constituency, and except for the NAR period from 1986-1991, has been held by the PNM.

PNM public relations officer Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing said yesterday that the La Brea constituency had been given an extension to look for more nominees.

The executive is expected to present the nominations by next Thursday, with a view of having the new nominees screened next Saturday.

“We go forward, but the people of La Brea don’t want anyone else,” one executive member said.

Sources said Le Hunte’s candidacy hit a major snag with his sudden and surprise decision to tender his resignation as Public Utilities Minister on May 15.

There was no indication that he would have been rejected outside of this development, which he initiated.

Hunte resigned on principle

Le Hunte said he resigned on principle, due to policy differences with respect to a water plan for the country.

But party sources said from the standpoint of the PNM, the timing was wrong, given where the party was in the electoral cycle.

Meanwhile, the village where Le Hunte was born and grew up—Dalley Village—is unwavering in its support for him.

A letter signed by three people—Lester Nurse, Sean Cooper and William Ashby—whom party members said went to school with Le Hunte, stated that Le Hunte as Public Utilities Minister assisted the community greatly.

“Please allow him to fulfil his true potential as a leader in the community as we realise our dreams and the goal to take our rightful place in the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago,” the letter stated.

The village is one of the fence-line communities to Heritage Petroleum Company and is home to approximately 70 families, many of whom found employment in oilfield operations.

Le Hunte is still involved in the screening of candidates because he holds the position of party vice-chairman.

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