Vasant Bharath. Photo: Facebook
“Yes they have issued a few mild and long-winded media releases, yes they have called a media conference which got a few column inches in the newspapers, and yes they have held a Monday Night Forum, which had 789 viewers, but we must ask yourselves is it enough to make the PNM uncomfortable? Is it enough to unseat the PNM?” – Vasant Bharath
By Sue-Ann Wayow
WHO is in the best position to return the United National Congress (UNC) to Government where it rightfully belongs?
This was the question asked by Vasant Bharath, contender for political leader of the UNC in the December 6 internal elections.
Launching his first campaign meeting on Wednesday night, Bharath’s main focus was that the UNC was in dire need of a strong opposition and it is for this reason why the electorate of the party needs to vote in a new National Executive next month.
Bharath said the People’s National Movement (PNM) government led by Dr Keith Rowley was the worst government Trinidad and Tobago has ever seen, yet somehow the party was voted back into office in 2020. This was because the UNC under present political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was losing credibility, reliability, the ability to gain people’s trust and deliver on promises, he claimed.
The former St Augustine MP said as painful as it was in 2009 to change then leader and founder of the UNC, Basdeo Panday, it was one that propelled the party into a resounding victory against the PNM in 2010 and the same change was required now.
Bharath added that the greatest in their profession all “had their day in the sun” and must retire someday.
He spent the majority of his speech highlighting issues within the PNM government adding that was the reason why a stronger opposition was needed now more than ever.
Bharath said, “Because in the midst of these urgent and pressing national issues, the parliamentary opposition has more or less been silent, as they were for the almost five years between 2015- 2020.
“Yes they have issued a few mild and long-winded media releases, yes they have called a media conference which got a few column inches in the newspapers, and yes they have held a Monday Night Forum, which had 789 viewers, but we must ask yourselves is it enough to make the PNM uncomfortable? Is it enough to unseat the PNM?”
He continued, “Instead of confronting the PNM, a large part of the Monday Night Forum was spent in attacking our campaign.
“My brothers and sisters, as much as it pains me, there are a few raw and uncomfortable facts which we must confront.”
Bharath stated, “The United National Congress is making no impact against a repressive, autocratic and dangerously incompetent government.
“The PNM is doing literally as it wants, knowing full well that it would escape the scrutiny of the opposition and will not be called upon to account before the nation.”
Speaking about Persad-Bissessar, he stated she will still play a vital role in the party’s development.
“Whilst we are grateful for the leadership of Ms Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her stewardship of government for five years, we must acknowledge that she no longer displays the tenacity, stamina and will to effectively challenge an authoritarian government.
“She has not unveiled a fresh vision that will excite the party and attract the national community.
“We must thank her for her service and assure her that her legacy will be well secured but she must understand that her continued insistence to remain at the helm of the UNC can only lead to one result, defeat and failure at the electoral polls and continued disappointment for our loyal soldiers and supporters.”
The issues and decisions made by the PNM government Bharath spoke about were:
- the slashing of funding for the education sector announced last week,
- the anti-gang legislation that is about to be debated in Parliament on Friday,
- the developmental plans of Port-of-Spain announced by Dr Rowley this week,
- the procurement process for the acquisition of two $500 million APT James vessel for the sea-bridge between Trinidad and Tobago; and
- the plight of small and medium businesses that had to close because of the impact of Covid-19
Bharath said the slash on the education sector was reckless, crime remains the number one social issue and legislation in its present form does nothing to curb gang activities.
The PNM should also be ashamed of the condition the capital city was in since it was a PNM district with a PNM mayor.
“The PNM government has done nothing to curb urban crime,” he said.
He also called on the government to issue an apology to Janelle Commissiong, whom Queen St in Port-of-Spain was named after for the deplorable condition it is presently in.
These were just some of the issues plaguing the country under the PNM administration that Bharath stated needed a stronger Opposition voice.
He said, “We have witnessed the worst government being elected into office in 2015 and re-elected in 2020, because our party was unable to convince voters we were the better choice.
“We moved from 432,000 votes and 29 seats in 2010 to 309,000 votes and 19 seats in 2020, a loss of 11 seats and 123, 000 votes.
“We continue to bleed votes in all our traditional heartland constituencies and along the way we managed to lose 11 elections including two general elections. Nothing has changed since August 10, and nothing will.”
And Bharath added that while attacks on him have begun and there were reports of constituency executives being forced to issue statements in support of Persad-Bissessar, he would not retaliate with similar tactics.
He said, “I today issued a letter to all constituency executives giving them my solemn word that I will in no way discriminate, ostracise or undermine any constituency executive that has made public statements in support of the current political leader.
“I shall seek no retribution. This is not my way, this is not the leader that I aspire to be and that is not the vision I have for our great party.
“I assure you that under my leadership, we shall be a party of love, dignity and mutual respect. We shall be a party of unity because I truly believe that unity is strength.”