With whom should UNC join? (Part 1 of 3)
There is much discussion on whether the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) should contest the next general elections alone or join with others in a coalition.
UNC Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has said the UNC is strong enough to stand alone. I respectfully disagree with her position. Political history has shown that the UNC has won only one of four general elections it contested without an alliance. That lone victory was in 2000 with a narrow two-seat majority (19-17) which lasted only one year in government under Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.
Opposition UNC MPs Ganga Singh and Dr Fuad Khan have tabled a motion requesting Kamla to “explore constructive, cooperative discussions with political entities, political parties, civic organisations and progressive individuals … to oppose and defeat the PNM in the coming local and general elections, and to offer the country the hope, the promise and the reality of good governance in Trinidad and Tobago.”
My opinion is that it is necessary that the UNC form a coalition or accommodation with all anti-PNM (People’s National Movement) forces. Most importantly, they must be given the space and support to fight the ruling PNM only in the non-traditional UNC constituencies as well as in San Fernando West and Tunapuna. This wise motion by Singh and Khan, nevertheless, places Kamla in a dilemma. If she accepts the motion, with whom should she join?
Beware of back-stabbers
Kamla must keep back-stabbers far away from the UNC’s safe seats in central and south Trinidad as well as in St. Augustine, St. Joseph, San Juan/Barataria and La Horquetta/Talparo. She must protect herself behind the Caroni bridge but offer support to them to fight on their own in the rest of Trinidad. Watson Duke must be left alone to wage war against the PNM in Tobago.
Kamla’s non-PNM critics and namakharams [ingrates] have worked vigorously to unseat her from her Prime Ministership (2010-2015). Her former allies must not be allowed to work with her closely again. Jack Warner, David Abdullah, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Verna St. Rose, Hubert Volney, et al. must not be trusted again.
And the likes of Basdeo and Mickela Panday, Ramesh Lawrence-Maharaj, Ancel Roget, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, Shiraz Khan, Phillip Alexander, Kirk Waite, Juliet Davy, Gregory Aboud, Inshan Ishmael, et al. must not be allowed to lurk and bask in the shadow of the UNC. New faces must be found.
Jack in the box
Jack Warner’s Independent Liberal Party (ILP) party would have been the alternative opposition in Trinidad if his campaign had been directed equally against the Opposition PNM and the ruling UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP). He was so consumed with vendetta against, and political tabanca [unreturned love sickness] for, his former allies that he was really helping the PNM to sling corruption stones against the PP. His campaign in 2013 was electrifying, riveting, convincing and dramatic with many young Indians surging to his side. But the electorate soon realised that Jack was, in effect, moonlighting for the PNM.
Jack’s popularity soon plummeted. In the 2013 Chaguanas West by-election, the ILP won resoundingly with12,642 votes vs 5,126 for UNC’s Khadijah Ameen. However, in the 2015 general elections, the ILP lost abysmally with 418 votes vs 17,506 for UNC’s Ganga Singh. The UNC’s Community Development Minister Winston Gypsy Peters publicly congratulated Jack on his ILP by-election victory in 2013. Gypsy now works for the PNM Government as Chairman of the National Carnival Commission.
Jack’s corruption charges against the PP during his political campaigns have proven to be false. He and his Sunshine newspaper have lost many defamation lawsuits in the courts for which he has to pay aggravated and exemplary damages as well as the legal costs of his claimants. Jack and his newspaper have lost cases filed by Kamla and other UNC members such as Anand Ramlogan, Surujrattan Rambachan, Devant Maharaj and Faaiq Mohammed.
With the threat of being extradited to the USA for a string of bribery charges relating to FIFA football corruption, should Kamla now embrace her former National Security Minister in a coalition? If she does, would Kamla be sleeping with the devil? To not do so would be to lose him as a political strategist, a fluent writer, a great public speaker, a tireless worker and a mobiliser of resources. It must be understood that Jack was unceremoniously fired as a Minister by Kamla for external corruption scandals. However, Kamla and the UNC should not have spurned him. It was a fatal mistake made by the UNC. Jack felt deeply hurt and his emotional pain transformed him into a raging Rawan and Hulk. He became a wounded animal thirsty for the blood of his perpetrator. He vowed publicly that he would remove the UNC-led PP from government just as he had helped to install them.
Dr Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books.