JANELLE DE SOUZA
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is going up for re-election as leader of the United National Congress (UNC) but the post may be contested by former senator, member of Parliament and government minister Vasant Bharath.
In a release on Friday, the UNC stated the political party would hold its internal elections on November 26 from 8 am to 6 pm. “Eighteen of the party’s twenty elected posts would be contested, including the position of political leader. Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar has taken the decision to seek a fresh mandate from the party members as the party prepares for a general election.”
It continued that the positions of Women’s Arm Officer and Youth Affairs Officer would be contested in a separate election. Also, nomination forms would be available at the UNC Head Office, Lot 26 Southern Main Road, Exchange Village, Couva from October 30 to November 8 between 9 am and 4 pm. UNC chairman David Lee noted Persad-Bissessar became leader in 2010 and had held on to the position since then.
He explained that the party’s internal election for political leader was held every three years while elections for all other positions were held every two years. Therefore, Persad-Bissessar’s term would have expired in November 2018 but she and the executive decided to hold it next month.
Lee said the membership would be distracted from the purpose of transforming the party and getting ready for general elections if the party was to hold internal elections in incoming years. “What she has sought to do, this year, is to go back to validate to the membership her position as political leader. She has done a tremendous job as Opposition Leader over the last 25 months. We have grown stronger as a party. It is really about solidifying and preparing for the next general election.”
He said he learnt Bharath had expressed interest in the leadership position through Facebook but had not heard of anyone else considering contesting Persad-Bissessar. In 2015, MP for Oropouche East, Dr Roodal Moonilal, and Bharath contested the political leader position but lost to Persad-Bissessar.
Speaking to Sunday Newsday, Bharath stressed he had not decided but was seriously considering vying for the post of UNC leader in the internal elections.
He described “rebuilding the UNC” and rebuilding the trust the population lost in the political party as a herculean task. He said he did not believe that, since losing the 2015 general election, the UNC had done much to build back that trust.
“A significant level of trust was lost from 2012 to 2015, leading to several lost elections, and culminating with the loss of the 2015 general elections. The party has not done any level of introspection, reflection, analysis, any restructuring of how it operates to really regain that trust. It needs to confront this current regime with a credible group of people with credible policy positions. It’s very unlikely the current configuration of people would be able to do that.”
Therefore, he said he had to consider the amount of work to be done and the fact that it would require a good team of people, before he made any decision.
In addition, Bharath said people with fake and real profiles had already begun attacking him on social media. He asked, “What is the point of having a democracy within an organisation when others are not able to offer themselves for election of any post?”
He said it was the mentality of many base supporters of various political parties that created a space to allow leaders to do as they wish. When contacted yesterday, Moonilal said his only consideration was helping those in his constituency who were marooned, distributing 800 lunches and water.
Calls to Persad-Bissessar’s cell phone went unanswered.