Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Azlan Mohammed/AZPNews
By Sue-Ann Wayow
THE United National Congress (UNC) cannot be trusted to run its own internal elections and observers should be selected to monitor the proceedings when they occur.
This is according to former UNC minister Devant Maharaj who has publicly called for UNC’s political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to stepdown to from the party she has led for the past ten years.
Maharaj, Dr Fuad Khan, another former UNC minister, and UNC attorney Larry Lalla have all made calls for Persad-Bissessar to resign as political leader following her re-appointment as Opposition Leader on Tuesday.
Persad-Bissessar in responding to questions from the media about calls for her to stepdown mainly from Maharaj and former minister Dr Fuad Khan said, “Well, you notice that they both did not get back their seat so let’s move along now.”
Maharaj said on his Facebook page, “The statement of the Leader of the Opposition to the media when asked about the criticism of Dr Fuad Khan and myself specifically calling for her to step down only serves to underscore the seriousness of the deficiencies of leadership.
“The Leader of the Opposition indicated that neither Dr Khan nor myself had gotten seats with self-evident implication is that we were disgruntled UNC Members. Facts however are stubborn things.”
He said Khan withdrew his nomination for the Barataria/San Juan seat and that he never filed for any.
Maharaj said, “If the Opposition Leader makes errors on such simple easily verifiable information how can we rely or trust on her on issues that are more serious.”
He said the suggestion by Persad-Bissessar that the internal UNC election could possibly be held this year was welcomed and if a general election could be held in the middle of a pandemic, so too could an internal election be held.
Maharaj said, “The National Executive elections whose life is only two years is overdue by almost a year. Despite this, the National Executive continues to hold office and make decisions without the legitimacy of an election and no issue has been raised is concerning about the adherence to the principles of democracy in the party.
“This is concerning given that the NatEx were active in the screening of candidates for the 2020 general election.”
Maharaj added that according to the UNC’s constitution, the political leader and National Executive shall not be elected in the same year.
He said given that an internal election is due, the party will want an updated list of members beforehand, election observers and conflicts of interests addressed.
“Simply put the UNC is not trusted to run a free and fair internal elections given the ease and comfort in which Article 18 of the UNC Constitution was dismissed in 2017 and a National Executive holding office unlawfully for an entire year without any objection from any of the incumbent office holders or arms of the party,” Maharaj said.
Khan in a video posted on his Facebook page said the UNC seemed to like coming in second place to the People’s National Movement (PNM).
“What it is does the membership of the United National Congress (UNC) have to do to wake up to win an election?” Khan asked.
He said while the boast could be the UNC won plenty votes, it was not enough to win the election.
Khan said, “You are getting more votes but you running second based on the strategies of the leaders that you put. Getting plenty votes is not the idea. It is about winning seats. This is not proportional representation. Between 2010 and 2015 when we could have done proportional representation, we did not do it. We were supposed to have two terms for a prime minister and we did not do it. And now you see why. People like being leaders no matter what.”
He ended his video post with a message directly to the UNC membership.
“Membership of the UNC decide if you want to continue running second or decide if you want to dig out the leaders.”
And attorney Larry Lalla said the party was long overdue for a change in leadership.
“After two successive general election defeats and many others on either side of those, the time has long past for there to be a change of leadership and direction in the party,” Lalla posted on Facebook.
He added that he remained committed to the party but Persad-Bissessar must put the interests of the party and country above self.