TOBAGO Festivals Commission chairman Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus will likely be expelled as a member of the People’s National Movement (PNM) after her decision to run as an independent candidate in the January 25 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections.
PNM Tobago Council chairman Stanford Callender said on Monday the party’s constitution is clear on such issues.
“Once a person or member of the party goes up against a candidate of the party that, according to our party’s constitution, is automatic expulsion,” Callender told Newsday. “It does not have to go before a disciplinary committee or anything like that.”
His statement came minutes after Tsoiafatt-Angus filed nomination papers to contest the Scarborough/Calder Hall electoral district. The PNM’s screening committee selected incumbent Marslyn Melville-Jack as its candidate in October.
Some residents were dissatisfied with this decision and it was reported that three of the five party groups in the electoral district wrote to the committee, headed by Tobago Council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine, as well as the party’s general secretary Foster Cummings, calling for Melville-Jack to be replaced by Tsoiafatt-Angus.
Davidson-Celestine told a news conference on December 29, the screening committee stood by its decision to select Melville-Jack.
On Monday, Tsosiafatt-Angus, who was accompanied by her husband Dwight and a small group of supporters, crossed paths with Melville-Jack outside the Glen Road building where they filed their nomination papers. The two women exchanged no pleasantries.
Tsoiafatt-Angus told reporters, “I am confident I would win the electoral district of Scarborough/Calder Hall and finally represent the people.”
PEOPLE BEFORE PARTY
Tsoiafatt-Angus said the decision to contest as an independent was a difficult one, “because I have always been a member of the party and committed to the party and its vision. When I got to this point of decision-making I had to ask myself, ‘Why did I join the party in the first place and why did I get involved in politics?’”
She explained: “For me, getting involved in politics was about the people, and therefore it came down (to a) choice between party politics and people politics. And at the end of the day, for me, it was always about service to the people.”
She said when she left her medical practice to go into politics, “I could not ignore the cries of the people for service. That is (why) I have stepped out, to ensure that the people of Scarborough/Calder Hall can get the service that they deserve and have been clamouring for.”
Asked whether she had committed political suicide, Tsoiafatt-Angus said: “If you look at candidates across the board who have left the PNM and come back to the PNM, did they commit suicide?
“I don’t consider that if you listen to the voice of the people, that you are committing suicide. If I, as a medical doctor, I am on my way to a party meeting and I see people at the side of the road stranded, crying, hurt, am I just going to continue driving to my party meeting? Or am I going to stop and listen and help them? I have to listen to the cries of the people.”
Asked if she had considered the political consequences of her decision, Tsoiafatt-Angus said: “Well, I don’t know what those consequences look like.
“I know that the PNM is a forgiving party. They have demonstrated that. (Winston) ‘Gypsy’ Peters was part of the UNC. He was part of the PNM. He ran again for the PNM.”
She said Moses Thomas, who appeared on a Progressive Democratic Patriot platform in the run-up to the August 10 general election, “was reinstated by this same executive back into the PNM. So I think people will understand that this is really about service to the people.”
NO SOUR GRAPES
Tsoiafatt-Angus claimed her decision was not influenced by being rejected by the screening committee. “I think if it were about sour grapes, I would have come out and said something early, when it happened. I did not say anything.”
The former THA presiding officer said she has been dealing with personal issues “and therefore when it happened, I went about dealing with my business.
“I made no statement to anyone about being sour and it is only in the last week that I began getting the calls from the people. So I don’t know anything about sour grapes.” She acknowledged being disappointed over her non-selection. “I am a human being. I think anyone would have been disappointed.
Saying the support has been overwhelming, Tsoiafatt Angus said the people of Scarborough/Calder Hall feel they are not being heard or acknowledged over the past four years.
“They have been disrespected, disregarded and they have pleaded for something more, for someone who understands service and is willing to give them that. I am putting myself on the line for them…it is all I can do at this point.” She said she has been a member of the PNM since 2008.
“I am still a member. I have not destroyed my party card. I have not sent in a resignation letter. So I consider that I am still a member. I think it is all about democracy, and democracy means not all the time would everyone agree to be on the same page. But it is okay, because that is what democracy is about. And if you are in politics, democracy must at some point raise its head.”
Callender described Tsoiafatt-Angus’s decision as unfortunate. He also said any PNM member who supports her candidacy will likely face disciplinary action.