THE United National Congress (UNC) is set to begin screening candidates for the January 25 by-elections in five electoral districts just after Christmas.
The People’s National Movement (PNM) has already announced candidates for the five positions left vacant by councillors and mayors who contested and won in the August 10 general election and were sworn in as MPs.
Those who became MP’s are former Point Fortin mayor and councillor for Hollywood Kennedy Richards, now MP for Point Fortin; former councillor for St Mary’s/Hindustan, Moruga MP Michelle Benjamin;former mayor of Chaguanas and councillor for Cunupia, Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit; former Arima mayor and Arima/Arima Central councillor, D’Abadie/O’Meara MP and Minister in the Minister of Education, Lisa Morris-Julian; and Communications Minister and Diego Martin Central MP Symon de Nobriga. De Nobriga is the former councillor for Morne Coco/ Alyce Glen and chairman of the Diego Martin Corporation.
UNC deputy political leader David Lee said he is not surprised that the PNM has announced candidates, as “the PNM will always have an advantage, as the Prime Minister had the election date in his back pocket.
“We are not too perturbed. We are par for the course.”
Lee said the deadline for the UNC's candidates to submit nomination will end this Friday. He said in the next week the party would evaluate the candidates and just after Christmas itshould begin screening.
Lee said the party will field candidates in all five districts.
He said the objective is to retain the two seats the UNC previously held in the Cunupia and Hindustan/St Mary’s districts and try to snatch a third. The party believes it has a strong candidate for the PNM stronghold of Morne Coco/Alyce Glen district in Diego Martin and will focus a lot of attention in that area as well.
“We want to put candidates on the ground as soon as possible,” Lee said.
The PNM’s prospective candidates are Leslie Chang Fong for Point Fortin/Hollywood, Shazam Lalloosingh for St Mary’s/Hindustan, Rasheed Ali for Cunupia , Dr Hillary Bernard for Arima/Arima Central and Junelle Schlere-Smart for Morne Coco/Alyce Glen.
Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein confirmed January 4 as nomination day and January 25 as polling day.
He said in accordance with Section 29 of the Municipal Corporations Act and Section 33 of the Representation of the People Act, writs of election for by-elections in the five corporations were issued under the seal of the President on December 10. As a result the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) will undertakeelectoral registration from December 17-27.
Hosein said he was looking forward to having these vacancies filled with competent councillors dedicated to national service.He encouraged all eligible citizens to go out and cast their votes to ensure their voices are heard.