THE United National Congress (UNC) launched its "peace, bread and justice" local government by-election campaign on Monday night.
Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar warned members not to fall victim to "election burnout."
After fiercely fought general and internal elections in the past five months, Persad-Bissessar, who has a renewed mandate, pledged, “This is a new time and we will be fighting every single seat that is up for grabs for the people who are in dire need of proper representation.”
Criticised for her many election loses, she said while the results of the last general election were not favourable as the UNC wanted, its percentage of voters increased from 39.61 per cent in 2015 to 47.09 in 2020, while the PNM percentage dropped from 51.68 to 49.08 for the same period.
“We gained almost 20,000 new votes and we did not even contest two seats. We captured an additional seat from the PNM in the Moruga/Tableland constituency.
“My friends, let us learn from our mistakes and be better this 2021.”
The UNC has selected five men to lead its battle in the borough of Point Fortin (Hollywood) Daniel John; Princes Town (St Mary’s/Hindustan) Tylon Farrell; borough of Chaguanas (Cunupia) Richard Sukdeo; borough of Arima (Arima Central) Sheldon Garcia; and Diego Martin (Morne Coco/Alyce Glen), John Laquis.
The five seats were made vacant by former councillors who stood for Parliament and won in the August 10 general election.
The UNC is hoping to retain the seats it holds in Princes Town and Chaguanas and grab the Diego Martin seat in the January 25 election.
The PNM has control of three of the seats in Arima, Point Fortin and Diego Martin.
St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen said while these five by-elections in five different regional corporations will not remove the People’s National Movement (PNM) from office, it is an opportunity for UNC members to participate in an exercise of democracy and for their voices to be heard.
She said this "must be a year when we are brave enough to stand up and make a difference.”
She said under the Basdeo Panday-led government of the UNC and the Persad-Bissessar government ofthe People’s Partnership (PP), local government was always more empowered.
She said they got more resources, councillors got offices, and across the board WASA, T&TEC, and the National Self-Help Commission were able to improve the lives of residents.
“Even PNM councillors say their electoral districts fared better under the UNC.”
She said the neglect is visible in PNM strongholds and it is time to send a clear message against crime, unemployment, failing health care and education and poverty.
Candidate Laquis said many were wondering why he was contesting again.
“Simple: because things have gotten worse. I don’t know how people settle for that. I am not.”
He said there were a lot of ills in Diego Martin, but also a lot of opportunities, and was willing to be the beacon for change.
Hollywood candidate Daniel Ricardo John said he was answering the call to uplift and build his community. John said he had been voting for the PNM for many years, but his vote has not brought about the changes he and the community desires.
Sukdeo who is seeking to succeed former Chaguanas mayor Vandana Mohit, said he understood people just wanted good governance and that was his priority.
Farrell was introduced by his predecessor Michelle Benjamin, now MP for Moruga/Tableand, who endorsed his candidacy. Farrell pledged to work with Benjamine to enhance the life of the people of the community.
A football coach for more than quarter of a century, Garcia has been positively changing the lives of young people in his community based on his RC principles and belief that service to man is service to God.
Garcia said he was glad for the opportunity to make a difference at another level.