Two-way race for UNC leadership as Devant pulls out

PULLED OUT: Former government minister Devant Maharaj explains to the media why he decided against contesting the leadership position in the UNC's upcoming internal election. - CHEQUANA WHEELER
PULLED OUT: Former government minister Devant Maharaj explains to the media why he decided against contesting the leadership position in the UNC's upcoming internal election. - CHEQUANA WHEELER

ALLEGATIONS and threats of legal action were hurled towards United National Congress (UNC) incumbent political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the party’s elections committee, as nominations were filed on Sunday for its upcoming internal election.

Challenger for the post of political leader Vasant Bharath said the current executive has been an embarrassment to its supporters and the foundation upon which the party was built.

He called for fair and proper conduct of the election and also accused Persad-Bissessar of trying to rig the process after another of her challengers, Devant Maharaj, accused her of developing a manual for the party’s internal management committee.

At the party’s headquarters at Southern Main Road, Exchange Village, Couva, Bharath said because there was misinformation about the manual and about who the general secretary of the party is, any new registered members in the party will be unable to vote on December 6.

“The (UNC’s) constitution is very clear, that the membership committee of the party shall consist of the general secretary and others. So, without the general secretary, all of these new memberships that have been made will be null and void.

“One has to question the legitimacy, transparency and the accountability of the elections committee to the electorate of the UNC.”

In a letter to chairman of the committee Ramesh Persad Maharaj, Bharath said he requested a meeting to discuss the matter of the alleged manual, which has now grasped public attention.

“The manual which you now seek to disclose has become embroiled in public controversy. Given the evidence which has emerged in the media, the irresistible inference being made by the public is that the content of this manual does not seem to reflect the work of your committee but rather the directions of Ms Persad-Bissessar and her team of lawyers.

“Respectfully, it is my view that there needs to be a reset of this process. To that end I respectfully suggest that a private meeting should be convened with your committee and the other candidates in this internal election to resolve these issues before further damage is done to our party.

“Whether this is true or not, is not the issue which confronts us as an organisation. We must act together to immediately stem a growing tide of negative public perception with respect to the conduct of these elections,” the letter said.

Bharath added that he and his team were willing to take the matter to court, if necessary.

“This is an election we are going to fight to the bitter end and show the membership of this party that they deserve better.

“It is not my hope that legal recourse would be required, it would be the final course of action. We do not want to have to bring the party into further disrepute, we do not want to fragment the party any further. But these kinds of actions are unacceptable because we have become that laughing stock of the Caribbean.”

Attorney Larry Lalla has filed for the position of chairman, and former Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial for deputy political leader on Bharath’s slate.

Maharaj, who did not file nomination, said while he remained interested in contesting the post of political leader, he remained convinced that the election committee was biased.

IT'S OFFICIAL: Vasant Bharath shows his receipt after filing his nomination form to contest the position of political leader of the UNC in the party's December 6 internal election. - CHEQUANA WHEELER

“The conduct of this election is obscene and vulgar and, while I am very much interested in contesting the position, I will not subject myself at this point to be part of a fraudulent process.

“My members have prepared the (nomination) forms but it is difficult to acquiesce to a fraudulent procedure.”

In letter to the party’s chairman Peter Kanhai, Maharaj gave a seven-day timeline in which to clear the air on the purported training manual created by Persad-Bissessar and the identity of the general secretary.

“To date, despite innumerable attempts to ascertain who is the general secretary of the UNC, the information is shrouded in secrecy.

“Given the fact that the general secretary would have played a role in appointing the internal management elections committee and is an important member of the party’s standing membership committee, it is vital that the identity of this person be known to all candidates given that the new members continue to be made en masse before the internal elections.

“As a result of these irregularities, I do not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the internal management election committee, nor do I intend to comply with any rules created by a candidate in these elections. A candidate cannot make the rules of an election in which she is contesting. That is unfair.”

Maharaj called for a dissolution of the committee and the establishment of a new one in which members would be nominated after proper consultation with all candidates.

Persad-Bissessar did not show up at the party’s headquarters to file nomination papers, but Newsday learnt that her nomination was filed by one of her representatives.


"Two-way race for UNC leadership as Devant pulls out"

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