As the internal election of the United National Congress (UNC) approaches, the incumbent and main contender for the leadership Kamla Persad-Bissessar trained her guns on her lone challenger Vasant Bharath on Monday night, calling him a detractor.
Addressing the party faithful as she sought to justify her relevance to take the party forward and reclaim government, Persad-Bissessar chastised Bharath for insulting the party and the membership. She took umbrage at him calling them “sycophants,” saying it was the same sycophants he wanted to vote for him on November 26.
“They could criticise me, but you see when they insult the membership of the UNC, I get vex, I get damn vex,” she said. “Do not insult the UNC. You vex with me, talk about me. I will handle you. I told you I can fight, but don’t insult and abuse the membership of the UNC.”
Warning against mudslinging, Persad-Bissessar said the same members being referred to by the derogatory term “are the ones who held us together and strong to fight the wicked PNM.”
She told party members not to be distracted, because while “sycophant” sounds like an ugly word, it really means loyalty to party and leader.
Among those in attendance at the meeting at the Couva South Constituency Office was president of the Sugar Workers Union Nirvan Maharaj who kicked out the UNC from its Rienzi Complex headquarters, formed his own National Solidarity Assembly and contested the last general election against the UNC. Persad-Bissessar welcomed him to the meeting.
She also accused Bharath of “throwing shade” on his own party, which he wants to lead, by saying it cannot win a general election.
“Why you throwing shade on your own party? Why you bad-talking your own party? Don’t say the UNC cannot win. Say I don’t like Kamla and I want her to go.”
She also challenged Bharath, saying if he wants change in the party, this is his chance to put his name on the ballot paper and let the membership decide.
“I say put your X, bring your ballot and come and we will fight manos a manos,” she said, although she contended the only change he really wanted “is to change Kamla.”
“You want change? Now is the time to change. Put your X on the ballot paper. Don’t stand and say you want change. Now is the time to make the change in leadership by a free and fair leadership election. One man, one vote, and doh back back. You throwing shade, you want to throw shade, so doh back back. When you come to shoot politically, as they say, shoot don’t talk.”
She echoed the sentiments of Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh that Bharath had been absent from party activities for the past two years, while others were in the trenches fighting to keep the party alive. She boasted that under her leadership she was able to increase the membership from 34,000 to over 100,000. Admitting they lost the 2015 general election, Persad-Bissessar took no blame for Bharath, a former trade minister, losing the St Joseph seat.
“Listen, dread, don’t blame Kamla when we lost St Joseph. You know Kamla won Siparia over and over and over again. And I don’t blame you, either. I think what happens is when we divide we lose. When we united in 2010, we won and when we unite in 2011, we won that local government election.”
She said the party lost the election when it was divided.
“Yes, mistakes were made, but I think it is time some big hardback men stop blaming Kamla for everything. Make your noise, but be real and take some responsibility. We are all in this together. All of us must take responsibility and learn from what has happened and let it not happen again.”