New PNM Tobago leader vows to listen

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FILE PHOTO: New PNM Tobago Council leader Ancil Dennis –

Ancil Dennis has created history yet again in becoming the youngest political leader of the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) Tobago Council.

Dennis, 35, was the sole contender for the position of political leader in the party’s internal election on Sunday where 17 positions were contested, 12 of which were unopposed.

Polls opened at 8am and closed at 6pm, at six polling stations across Tobago.

But at 8.45pm, the PNM Tobago Council’s elections committee had not released the official results for the five contested positions: chairman; vice-chairman; general secretary, labour relations officer and youth officer.

In assuming the post of political leader, Dennis succeeds Davidson-Celestine, who had also created history when she became the Tobago Council’s first female leader on January 26, 2020.

Davidson-Celestine decided to not seek re-election after the party’s crushing 14-1 defeat to the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in the December 6, 2021, THA election.

Dennis, who holds a master of science degree in Public Policy and Management from University of London, first created history when, at just 26, he fought and won the Buccoo/Mt Pleasant seat in the 2013 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, becoming the youngest representative in the chamber.

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

He will serve as the Tobago Council’s political leader for the next two years.

Speaking to reporters outside of the Canaan/Bon Accord Multipurpose Facility, Dennis said he intends to make some changes to the Tobago Council’s internal structure.

“It is important to really talk to our membership, so my first order of business will be to meet with the new executive, to hear from them their concerns, their ideas and, of course, we will extend those consultations to the general membership of the party and that is, of course, concerning the internal party arrangements because I think we need to make some changes to the organisation itself and we would be looking at these issues,” he said.

Dennis added the party also has to continue talking to Tobagonians.

“I feel the need for the party to talk to the people of Tobago once again – as we have been doing all along. But I think we need to have a fresh conversation with the people of Tobago to determine our platform going forward – those set of policies that we would be promoting as a party, as an alternative administration on the island of Tobago and, therefore, we will have those conversations with the people of Tobago going forward.”

Dennis said the new executive will discuss where the party went wrong and learn from their mistakes.

“That is what politics is about.”

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

“So, it is the nature of politics. We promised to provide good leadership and service to the people of the country and in this case the people of Tobago. That promise wasn’t based on being in government only. We expect that at times we will 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 view of at least three political commentators that he has a monumental task on his hands to rebuild the PNM in Tobago, Dennis said, “Definitely, similar to Patrick Manning when the PNM lost nationally 33-3, that was a monumental task. Patrick Manning went on to become prime minister.

“The score at this time is 14-1 and it is a great challenge but the people within this party are not short on tenacity. We are not short on hope. We are not short on courage and we are not short on the willingness to do the work.

“So, I have every confidence that the executive, supported by the membership of the party, would, in fact, do what is necessary to ensure that we are able to not just 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 evidently some division that took place within the party over the last couple of years and I will be honest to say that, no, I don’t think we have recovered fully from those issues and, therefore, it is my intention to, as far as possible, consult and provide the kind of people-centred, all-inclusive leadership that will bring people together, consisting of people who may have supported previous political leaders, whether it be Mrs Davidson Celestine, Mr Kelvin Charles, bring all of those people together to really chart the way forward.”

He also thanked Davidson-Celestine for her stewardship and leading the party in two THA elections.

“We lost the last Tobago House of Assembly election but notwithstanding that I believe she deserves every ounce of credit for becoming the first female political leader, not just in Tobago but the PNM generally. So, I sincerely want to congratulate her and to thank her for taking on this difficult task as the first female political leader in the PNM in the country.”

Winners uncontested: Kamaria London (lady vice-chairman); Keston Williams (assistant general secretary); Maxslon Roberts (treasurer); Aisha Mc Knight (research officer); Gerald Brown (education officer); Monique Perreira (social media officer); Kurt Wilson (elections officer); Pete Gray (field officer); Latoya Horsford (welfare officer); Ancil Thorne (operations officer) and Shomari Hector (PRO).