Independent candidate joins PNM, UNC in…3-way battle for Lengua/Indian Walk

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PNM candidate for the Lengua/Indian Walk district Autly Granthume, centre, is welcomed by party supporters and Local Govt Minister Faris Al-Rawi, left, and Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, who is standing between Al-Rawi and Granthume. PHOTO BY YVONNE WEBB – Yvonne Webb

AN independent candidate has thrown his hat into the local government election for the vacant Lengua/Indian Walk district in the UNC-controlled Princes Town Regional Corporation (PTRC).

Peterson Morales will cross political swords with the PNM’s Autly Granthume and the UNC’s candidate Nicole Gopaul.

The three filed nomination papers on May 24, to contest the June 17 local government by-election. Nominations were filed at the Princes Town East Secondary School.

A similar exercise took place simultaneously in Penal, where the PNM’s Anderson Nanan and UNC’s Sarah Sookdeo filed nomination papers to contest the electoral district of Quinam/Morne Diablo, in a by-election also for June 17.

Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin, 2nd from left, hugs the UNC’s candidate for the Lengua/Indian Walk destrict Nicole Gopaul, centre, after the latter filed her nomination papers on Friday at the Princes Town East Secondary School. PHOTO BY YVONNE WEBB – Yvonne Webb

The Quinam/Morne Diablo seat was declared vacant after the death of councillor and Penal/Debe Regional Corporation chairman Diptee Ramnath, in December.

This is the second time Morales, an electrical technician who runs his own small business, has contested a by-election. The first time was in the 2021 by-elections when he was able to muster 32 votes for the Hindustan district. Despite this humbling entry into local government politics, Morales said he believes he is better known this time around, and his chances are much improved.

“The results of the last election told me people are fed-up of the two parties and want change. I can be that change. I can make the difference,” Morales said.

Squaring off for a second time, Granthume and Gopaul – who tied after two recounts following the last local govt election, triggering the by-election – both expressed confidence in winning by a definite margin this time.

Granthume was accompanied by flag-waving supporters, a music truck and a rhythm section, which both had to be silenced as CSEC exams were in progress at the school being used as a returning office.

Independent candidate Peterson Morales after filing his nomination papers on Friday to contest the local government by-election for the Lengua/Indian Walk district. PHOTO BY YVONNE WEBB – Yvonne Webb

Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi and Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon also showed up to support Granthume, who was the first to file at 10 am.

There was no such fanfare for Gopaul who was accompanied by Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin and a few councillors and supporters, all of whom hugged and congratulated her.

Interviewed after filing his papers, Granthume said the process was smooth. “I feel great. I am prepared to do battle.” He said has been on the ground, working since the recount which ended with a tie of 1,428 votes for himself and Gopaul. The returning officer at that election, rejected a special ballot, which would have broken the tie in favour of the UNC’s Gopaul.

Asked what difference winning one seat could make in an opposition-controlled council, Granthume replied, “Sometimes it takes one person to make a difference.”

Al-Rawi explained that under the reform package, a single seat on the council would constitute a minority leadership, particularly in respect of the audit committee.

Referring to Granthume as “pastor,” Al-Rawi said the role of a minority leader in this regard would equate transparency and yield much better results.

Responding to Al-Rawi, MP Benjamin said this was ironic coming from a government MP and Cabinet member given there are questions surrounding $2.6 billion in the Auditor General’s report.

Like Granthume, Gopaul said she too has been on the ground working and campaigning to ensure that this time around, the results are clear and would require no recount or court battle. “I will bring home the victory to the UNC,” she promised.