IN an unprecedented move, the UNC has been conducting its screening exercise at an undisclosed location, void of media coverage, but the party had denied it is being secretive.
UNC PRO Anita Haynes said, “We are not having secret screenings, the media is not locked out, but we don’t want to put the public at risk,” referring to government’s guidelines against congregating in large numbers.
“We have not disclosed the location because once bitten by the election bug people usually get excited and will want to show up (at the screening).”
She said the screening is being done in batches and the party has discouraged large gatherings from accompanying prospective candidates.
The PNM which is also screening candidates has been doing so from two locations, at its Balisier House headquarters and at Queen’s Hall in full view of the media. The PNM is also ahead in its naming of candidates.
The UNC has named only ten candidates to date even though its screening began at the beginning of the year. The PNM has already named 19.
As the race for the selection of candidates heats up, San Juan/Barataria MP Dr Fuad Khan has criticised his party for being slow on the draw to name the line up that will be going into the 2020 general election
Haynes said that was no indication the party is struggling to get suitable candidates. She said there is no shortage of people offering to be the standard bearers for the party in all constituencies, including those considered PNM strongholds.
She said the party has interviewed candidates from varied backgrounds ranging from economic, social, ethnic, academic and religious. This is also in keeping with the mandate of their leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to field candidates reflecting youth and experience.
“Screening is continuing this week. New candidates are expected to be announced during the UNC’s Thursday night virtual meeting.”
She recalled that her party was the first to open nominations for the general election and hundreds of patriots answered the call. She said the UNC was moving along quite nicely, screening two candidates per month, but the covid19 pandemic slowed their progress.
Haynes said shortly after announcing the first five candidates the party had to suspend campaign activities as TT recorded its first imported covid19 case.
Further to the country being locked down she said all arms of the party were dispatched to the community to ensure people literally had food on their tables
Among the UNC candidates named are senators Sean Sobers for San Fernando West and Taharqua Obika for Point Fortin. Haynes, who also occupies a seat on the Senate’s opposition bench has also been screened for the Tabaquite constituency.
The incumbent Dr Surujrattan Rambachan has bowed out of the race to give younger people an opportunity to make a contribution to the politics.Ganga Singh has also indicated his intention not to contest the upcoming elections.
All other incumbents are willing to serve another term, but only three of them have been screened so far. They include Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe, the representative for Pointe a Pierre , David Lee and Naparima MP Rodney Charles.
Chaguanas East MP Fazal Karim confirmed that while he has submitted his nomination papers, he has not yet been called before the screening committee.
Karim said he is ready and waiting to be called.
Last Thursday five new candidates were named for the two Port of Spain and three Diego Martin constituencies, including those now held by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Finance Minister Colm Imbert. They are Marsha Walker Riley for Diego Martin West, John Ricardo Laquis for Diego Martin Central and businessman Eli Zakour for Diego Martin North East. This will be the second time Zakour who is the party’s North-West coordinator will be contesting a seat for the UNC. He contested but lost the seat in the 2015 election.
Former policeman Curtis Orr is the candidate selected to contest the POS South seat, while youth activist Darren Garner is the party’s choice for POS North/St Ann’s West.