PEOPLE’S National Congress Reform (PNCR) senior member, Mr. Winston Murray and Alliance For Change (AFC) leader, Mr. Raphael Trotman yesterday morning met a controversial Caribbean political strategist in a surprising development in local opposition politics.
The two men met Mr. Hartley Henry, who is based in Barbados and is reportedly close to the administration in Barbados and to the CADRES organisation on that island which was commissioned by persons linked to the AFC to do a poll here earlier this year.
Henry and Trotman refused to comment on their meeting at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown and Murray hurried off as reporters approached for an interview.
The Murray-Trotman meeting with the consultant has come amid a leadership rift between Trotman and AFC Chairman, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan.
Murray resigned as PNCR Chairman last year as a leadership crisis deepened in the main opposition party and speculation surfaced yesterday that Trotman may be courting him as a possible alternative AFC running mate for next year’s general elections.
The AFC failed to resolve its leadership impasse after a one-day meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) which went into late Saturday night and insiders said it is now clear that Trotman is being favoured over Ramjattan as its presidential candidate for the 2011 general elections.
AFC insiders said the party has not adhered to its public commitment for revolving leadership and this has made Trotman the favourite for its 2011 presidential candidate.
Ramjattan’s backers have been pushing for him to replace Trotman at the helm of the party in keeping with a leadership rotation agreement but the NEC could not break the deadlock at the Saturday meeting.
The party said in a press release that its regional and international groups have now been officially mandated to nominate candidates for the presidential and prime ministerial positions, after which the NEC will make recommendations to its national conference scheduled for later in the year.
According to AFC sources, the Ramjattan faction is not comfortable with this development and his backers are exploring options, including forming a breakaway party.
After its Saturday meeting, the AFC said the NEC also “reaffirmed its total commitment to forging compatible alliances”.
Political analysts said the AFC has apparently sought the services of Henry to bolster the chances of the opposition at the 2011 elections by attempting to form a coalition of opposition forces for the polls.
Henry has been embroiled in controversies in several Caribbean countries, with a female lawyer in Antigua and Barbuda accusing him of making sexual advances.
He and CADRES President, Mr. Peter Wickham, worked together in June 2007 and were accused of helping the then Labour Party government in St Kitts and Nevis with its plans for an early election before proper electoral reforms were implemented.
In August 2009, Henry again made headlines in Barbados after he reportedly telephoned SUNDAY SUN editor, Carol Martindale, threatening to tarnish her reputation if she did not “do the right thing” regarding the handling of a report on a CADRES poll – which rated the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government favourably.
The AFC has been split into two rival camps backing Trotman and Ramjattan in a leadership division closely mirroring that which has left the PNCR in disarray.
The PNCR has been split into several camps over repeated challenges to Mr. Robert Corbin’s leadership and the AFC, which emerged from Trotman’s defection from the PNCR, is heading down the same road, sources projected.
AFC insiders said Trotman’s backers want him to stay at the helm and lead the party into the elections but those supporting Ramjattan are opposing the bid.
Another senior party member, Michael Carrington, last week announced that he too wanted to be presidential candidate.