UNITED National Congress (UNC) Barataria councillor-elect Sharon Maraj-Dharam says she won last Monday’s local government by-election “fair and square.”
In a Sunday Newsday interview on Friday, Maraj-Dharam dismissed allegations by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in the run up to the election, that the UNC used race talk and was willing to risk the country’s social stability to win the Barataria and Belmont East seats.
The homemaker defeated the PNM’s candidate Kimberly Small in a keenly-fought battle in the marginal San Juan/Barataria seat, receiving 1,933 votes as opposed Small's 1,825 tally for the PNM.
The UNC’s Lianna Babb-Gonzales lost the Belmont East electoral district to the PNM’s Nicole Young. Maraj-Dharam claimed the party increased votes in all but one of the 17 polling divisions in Barataria.
During a public meeting at St Francois Girls College, Rowley had said the UNC began using race talk in El Socorro because they believed there were many Muslims at polling station 1405.
However, Maraj-Dharam made it clear her victory in the by-election had nothing to do with Muslim support. “We increased votes in all the polling divisions, except one. So, it had nothing to do with Muslims. I won fair and square.”
At the St Francois meeting, Rowley also noted the UNC had lost eight elections within the past few years, including the 2015 general election and 2016 local government poll.
Maraj-Dharam, having broken the UNC’s dry spell, is aware that a huge burden has been placed on her shoulders but assured she is up to the task.
“I feel great that I am the catalyst that brought this home. The people sent the message that they were ready for this general election to come and ready for a change to put a party that works for us again.”
Although she is yet to be sworn-in as a councillor in the San Juan/Barataria Regional Corporation, Maraj-Dharam said she continues to meet the people.
Saying she has also been inundated with calls about drainage problems and water shortages, Maraj-Dharam said she was not above seeking amenities for residents from outside sources in instances where the corporation’s hands may be tied.
“I intend to be visible and once something is not within my powers at the corporation, I am willing to work with people on the outside, like community activists.”
A political newcomer, Maraj-Dharam’s roots are firmly entrenched in Barataria, so much so that she still lives in her childhood home at the corner of 12 Street, Fourth Avenue.
For now, she said crime and unemployment were two of the major issues affecting residents. Maraj-Dharam said she planned to meet with members of the TT Police Service and businessmen to plan strategies to address both issues within the next two weeks.
Representation in Barataria became vacant after the death of PNM councillor Pernell Bruno on July 8, 2017.