THE United National Congress (UNC) has denied affiliation with the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), even as the ruling People's national Movement (PNM) has repeatedly accused both parties of collaborating.
The PDP's grand election campaign launch on October 27, 2019 at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort had barely finished before the PNM claimed the event was paid for by the UNC. At the Assembly Legislature, PNM Assemblymen have blatantly and indirectly taunted PDP about their "friends in Trinidad."
The PDP has described the PNM's assertions as covert racism and another version of "Calcutta ship," the controversial phrase used by former PNM official Hilton Sandy in 2013 THA elections.
The UNC said it will not field candidates for the Tobago East and West seats for the general election, instead focusing on 39 constituencies in Trinidad.
The Kamla Persad-Bissessar party has had a history of forming coalitions with Tobago parties to form a Government, partnering with the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), in 2010, and National Alliance of Reconstruction (NAR), in 1995.
Haynes, in an e-mailed response to Newsday questions, said there is no link between the PDP and UNC.
She said, "The PNM is in the habit of saying things with no evidence to back up their statement of fantasy. It is also the modus operandi of the PNM to call everyone who disagrees with their failed and destructive policies as UNC and while we welcome new members everyday, we have stated categorically that we will face the polls as the UNC and not a coalition."
PDP political leader Watson Duke has in the past said he wants to be Prime Minister, utilising the two Tobago seats, if successful, to aggressively negotiate into power.
Asked if the UNC is open to forming coalition, if necessary, to form the next Government, Haynes said, "At this point in time, the UNC is eyeing at least 25 seats."
Haynes said, to the best of her knowledge, the UNC has not met or strategised with the PDP about the upcoming general elections.
Despite not vying for the Tobago seats, Haynes said her party has Tobago's interest at heart and the island is a significant part of its national plans.
"We are working towards and intend on winning the general election 2020, our National Economic Transformation Plan includes specific plans for a locally-branded hotel in Tobago and an international cruise ship/marina complex in Plymouth. These are to ensure that Tobago is included on our path to 50,000 jobs in five years."
She added, "We will support anyone who can support these ideas, anyone who is forward thinking and willing to work with a progressive UNC Government, to work for a better life for Tobagonians."
Haynes said the party continues to build a base in Tobago but declined to say if the UNC will contest the THA elections, constitutionally due in 2021.
"Only time will tell," she said.
"We continue to build capacity in Tobago. We have a Tobago co-ordinator on our national executive who is the point person on this all-important capacity building. Also, we have seen growing widespread disenchantment and resentment towards the PNM by Tobagonians who themselves have decided to oppose the PNM on their own."
UNC BACKS SELF-GOVERNANCE
On the contentious issue of political autonomy and the long-awaited passing of the Tobago Self Government Bill, Haynes said Tobago has the backing of the UNC.
"It is important to note that the PNM has dragged their feet on this Tobago Self Government Bill. The PNM has continuously promised self government for Tobagonians but their actions continue to show otherwise.
"Their contempt for the people of Tobago was recently shown with the lack of support for the hotel and wider tourism industry in the midst of covid19. In addition, the complete destruction of the seabridge. The UNC continues to support increased self government for Tobagonians, as we have always stood for."
Haynes said there are a few issues her party wants ironed out by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) before general election.
"The UNC has previously held a meeting with the EBC on the 12th of June to discuss concerns that we continue to have. The UNC team raised the following issues: voter registration, the ability of members from Commonwealth territories to vote in Trinidad and Tobago general election, questions around the issue of special voting and the ability of the EBC to police the list of electors.
"In addition, concerns surrounding the official detailed report of the 2019 local government election as well as how the covid19 restrictions will affect the upcoming voting process."