But the protestors drew the ire of political leader, Prime Minister Patrick Manning who told reporters after the screening that those at Balisier House amounted to just a few hundred, whereas the PNM has thousands of supporters whose views had been solicited by way of the controversial Bill Johnson poll.
“The General Council made it absolutely clear that we won’t tolerate demonstrations in support or against candidates when the screening process is underway,” said Manning.
Earlier, the PNM constituency executives who each respectively sat alongside the PNM Screening Committee sent a sharp message of support for incumbents Tunapuna MP Eddie Hart, Diego Martin MP Ken Valley and Laventille East/Morvant MP Fitzgerald Hinds, plus Point Fortin MP Larry Achong who had previously been rejected by the Screening Committee because of his court case for obscene language.
Outside Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, some 200 supporters of three of the incumbents kept up a noisy vigil, chanting and waving placards, an action which was even aggressively directed at Manning upon his arrival. As Manning arrived amidst his escort of police cars, PNM supporters in the road angrily closed in on the convoy and chanted determinedly, causing security guards to hurriedly close one of the gates to the Balisier House carpark.
The crowd rhythmically chanted, “We want we Valley, right now!” and “No Hinds, no vote!” Hart’s supporters sported placards saying, “Hart of Gold” and “Eddie Hart – a people’s person” and sang his name to the tune of the song “When the Saints go marching in.”
Two weeks ago the Screening Committee under Manning had rejected Hart and Hinds, instructing their constituencies to find new nominees, and had refused to screen Valley but instead sent him to the Central Executive for having refuted the Johnson poll’s findings that alleged he had not well represented his constituents.
Inside Balisier House, the Tunapuna constituency executive stood by Hart by rejecting the nomination of youngster Kerwin Simmonds and so challenging the Screening Committee’s suggestion that Hart was too old.
The Diego Martin Central constituency executive approved the nomination of Valley who up to yesterday remained the sole nominee. Laventille East/Morvant allowed the screening of Jeffrey Reyes as a challenger to Hinds, but refused to screen Keith Eddie who they complained had not been properly nominated.
While Achong has supposedly dropped out of the race, the Point Fortin constituency executive which had previously rejected all five other persons offering themselves as candidates, last night refused to screen a young woman offering herself as candidate, while another female nominee failed to even show up. Manning instructed that nominations be re-opened for Point Fortin.
Three people presented themselves for screening for the Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West seat held by Minister of Health John Rahael. These persons were Radical Designs CEO Gary Hunte, Port-of-Spain city councillor Joel London and George Hafeez. In contrast to the loud protests for the incumbents, the new candidates generally kept a low-profile quietly entering and exiting Balisier House.
The man in the limelight was Valley who had a busy day as both the first nominee for screening and later as a member of the Screening Committee for the other four constituencies.
He was screened for 21 minutes, after which he emerged saying very little. When asked how his screening had gone he replied, “Very good.” Ironically, Valley found himself in the position of having to firmly but politely ask those very persons protesting in support of him and his colleagues to keep down the noise which he said was hindering the work of the Screening Committee.
Neither Hart nor Hinds was required to show up yesterday because they have already been approved by their constituencies, although not meeting the approval of the Screening Committee.