By Sue-Ann Wayow
POLITICAL leader of the United National Congress (UNC) Kamla Persad-Bissessar is not taking full blame for the party’s failure to return to government after the August 10 general election.
Instead she has placed the blame on UNC members who have sought to divide and conquer using blackmail behaviour and causing confusion in the minds of undecided voters.
Persad-Bissessar declared on Thursday night, “We did very very well. I am not taking the blame.”
She began her campaign to be re-elected as the party’s political leader calling on all UNC members to follow her star which is the symbol once again chosen to represent her team.
On Wednesday, Persad-Bissessar’s sole opponent in the upcoming UNC internal election, Vasant Bharath launched his slate as the campaigning for leadership positions in the party heats up.
She referred to Bharath as “that other man.”
Persad-Bissessar’s Star Team was launched virtually at the Shiva Boys’ Hindu College in Penal. The UNC internal election takes place on December 6.
The leader spent most of her feature address giving a history of the party and said the failure to overthrow the People’s National Movement (PNM) government stemmed mainly from those who have either broken away from the party to form their own or those who abandoned the party for various reasons and returned with the hope that they will be given a position of power.
Persad-Bissessar stated to supporters, “I have never left your side. I have never stopped working.”
Describing cycles in the UNC labelled “the destructive five-year cycles” Persad-Bissessar said, “After every general election, the traitors and the lazy opportunists and the destroyers, they come out to damage the UNC.
“This is not just about now. This has been happening since the 1990s. They attack the membership and the leadership. They degrade and destabilise the party to create chaos. They don’t concern themselves about the damage it does for the party’s national image and the membership psyche.”
Such people desecrate the party’s image by public talks and anti-UNC media platforms, she added, “parrot and repeating the PNM talking points against their own party.”
She said, “Then after five years of this destructive behaviour, when the next general elections are due, they begin saying, ‘unite, we must unite.’”
However, it was a false unity wanted just before a general election is due for selfish benefits.
“The unity they want is not to help the party win. It is a kind of blackmail to try to get safe seats for themselves. Their idea of unity is to parachute from top, not come on the ground and work as hard as us for five years,” she said.
She said, “Every election since 2015, while I fought for the UNC, while I defending the UNC, I was insulted and bashed from all sides but I fought for our members and all the while these would be leaders ably assisted by the PNM attacking the party.
“Do they deserve to become leaders of the UNC, the answer is no.
“By August 2020, we lost the general election despite our best efforts, we lost it by a mere 2,500 votes. Maybe if they had helped and campaigned with us, we might have gotten some of that 2,500. We were just a breath away from government, 19 seats to the PNM.
“If they had spent less time bad talking the UNC, pulling down the UNC candidates, that would impact on undecided voters in other constituencies so don’t come here and say we lost.”
Persad-Bissessar told those who have been opposing her, “You were to blame, you were part of that blame. So stop this blame game that you are making. What did you do and where were you, you were never there except aganist us.”
She continued, “Why would undecided voters want to vote for us when our own members were campaigning for the PNM against us? It was more important again to try and damage our election chances to try to get rid of Kamla than putting our members first.”
Focusing on the younger candidates who have been chosen to represent the party in Parliament, Persad-Bissessar said it was a shame that the older members who have served in Parliament for more than ten years were upset when others were given a chance to represent their constituency.
She added that there was no place for caste and class in the UNC and many of those who are serving now have worked their way up in the party from ground level.
“Feel free to criticise me but do not criticise the loyal membership of the party,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar also echoed Bharath’s call that he made on Wednesday to the PNM to apologise to former Miss Universe Janelle Commissiong for the distasteful manner in which Queen Street was spoken about by the PNM.
The street was called “the official toilet of Port-of-Spain” by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during the announcements of his plans to revitalise the capital city on Monday.
And the former prime minister added that her main role would be to guide the younger generation of politicians so that the party will continue to have strong leadership.
The meeting was chaired by Member of Parliament for Barataria/San Juan Saddam Hosein.
Following is the list of candidates under Persad-Bissessar’s Star Team:
- Political leader – Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister
- Deputy Political Leader – Dr Lackram Bodoe
- Deputy Political Leader – David Lee
- Deputy Political Leader – Jearlean John
- Chairman – David Tancoo
- Deputy Chairman – Khadijah Ameen
- Treasurer – William Archie
- Policy and Strategy Officer – Sean Sobers
- Education Officer – Clifton De Coteau
- International Relations Officer – Nicholas Morris
- Party Organiser – Ravi Ratiram
- Tobago Coordinator – Beemal Ramlogan
- South Coordinator – Shanty Boodram
- Central Coordinator -Rasheed Karim
- North East Coordinator – Neil Gosine
- North West Coordinator – Eli Zakoor