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PNM Tobago’s new chief pledges to listen

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FILE PHOTO: Ancil Dennis, new head of the PNM Tobago Council –

Ancil Dennis once again made history by becoming the youngest political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Council of Tobago.

Dennis, 35, was the only candidate for political leader in the party’s internal elections on Sunday where 17 positions were contested, including 12 unopposed.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 a.m. and closed at 6:00 p.m., at six polling stations across Tobago.

But as of 8:45 p.m., the PNM Tobago Council elections committee had not released the official results for the five positions in the running: president; vice-president; general secretary, labor relations officer and youth officer.

In assuming the position of political leader, Dennis succeeds Davidson-Célestine, who also made history by becoming the first female leader of the Tobago Council on January 26, 2020.

Davidson-Célestine decided not to seek re-election after the party’s landslide 14-1 loss to the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in the Dec. 6, 2021, THA election.

Dennis, who holds an MSc in Public Policy and Management from the University of London, first made history when, aged just 26, he fought and won the seat of Buccoo/ Mt Pleasant in the 2013 election for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), becoming the youngest representative in the house.

Seven years later, on May 6, 2020, 33-year-old Dennis was elected Chief Secretary of the THA, replacing Kelvin Charles, who resigned after losing the leadership of the PNM Tobago Council to Davidson-Celestine.

He will be the political leader of the Council of Tobago for the next two years.

Speaking to reporters outside the multipurpose Canaan/Bon Accord facility, Dennis said he intended to make some changes to the Tobago Council’s internal structure.

“It is important to really talk to our members, so my first task will be to meet with the new executive, to hear their concerns, their ideas and, of course, we will extend these consultations to all members of the party and that relates, of course, to the internal arrangements of the party because I think we need to make some changes to the organization itself and we would look at those issues,” he said.

Dennis added that the party must also continue to talk to Tobagonians.

“I feel the need for the party to speak to the people of Tobago again – as we have always done. But I think we need to have a new conversation with the people of Tobago to determine our platform going forward – this set of policies that we would promote as a party, as an alternative administration on the island of Tobago and, therefore, we are going to have these conversations with the people of Tobago in the future.

Dennis said the new executive will discuss the party’s mistakes and learn from its mistakes.

“That’s politics.”

Dennis, who lost the Buccoo/Mt Pleasant seat he has represented since 2013, said political parties win and lose elections. He recalled that the PNM lost the 2010 general elections to the People’s Partnership but returned to government in the 2015 elections.

“So that’s the nature of politics. We promised to provide good leadership and good service to the people of the country and, in this case, the people of Tobago. That promise was not based solely on the fact to be in government. We expect that we will occasionally find ourselves on the other side, as we are now. We only have one seat in the House (THA) and we intend to provide good leadership and continued service to the people of Tobago.

Responding to the advice of at least three political commentators that he has a monumental task ahead to rebuild the PNM in Tobago, Dennis said: “Certainly, like Patrick Manning when the PNM lost nationally 33-3, it was a monumental task.Patrick Manning later became Prime Minister.

“The score at this point is 14-1 and it’s a big challenge but people in this party don’t lack tenacity. We don’t lack hope. We don’t lack courage and we don’t lack no will to do the job.

“So I have every confidence that the executive, supported by party members, would, in fact, do what is necessary to ensure that we are able to not only rebuild but rebuild to the extent that we can appeal to the Tobago electorate as an alternative government in the Tobago space.

Dennis believes the PNM is healing – not from its defeat in the THA election but from its internal struggles.

“I think, obviously, we had our internal challenges. There is obviously some division that has taken place within the party over the past couple of years and I will be honest to say, no, I don’t think we have fully recovered from those issues and therefore I I intend to, where possible, consult and provide the type of inclusive, people-centred leadership that will bring people together, made up of people who may have supported former political leaders, be it Ms Davidson Celestine, Mr. Kelvin Charles, bring all of these people together to really chart the way forward.

He also thanked Davidson-Célestine for his leadership and leadership of the party in two THA elections.

“We lost the last elections for the Tobago House of Assembly, but I think she deserves all the credit for becoming the first female political leader, not only in Tobago, but in the PNM in general. So I want to I sincerely congratulate and thank her for taking on this difficult task as the first female political leader of the PNM in the country.

Undisputed winners: Kamaria London (lady vice-president); Keston Williams (Assistant Secretary General); Maxslon Roberts (Treasurer); Aisha McKnight (Research Officer); Gerald Brown (Head of Education); Monique Perreira (Social Media Manager); Kurt Wilson (Elections Officer); Pete Gray (Field Officer); Latoya Horsford (social worker); Ancil Thorne (Operations Officer) and Shomari Hector (PRO).