“Fanfare, pomp and circumstance,” said the operatic tenor John Thomas in a recent press release.
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Why all the secrecy in the UNC, Mr Tancoo?
After much deliberation, I decided not to participate in any way, shape or form in the UNC’s internal elections that was held on December 5, 2015, almost three years after it was constitutionally due.
The reason behind my decision was simple—it was clear, after numerous unsuccessful attempts were made, that no information regarding the election process or the party’s membership list was going to be provided by the head office without the authorisation of Mr Dave Tancoo, general secretary of the party, and a former special adviser to then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Needless to say, that authorisation was never given.
His refusal effectively meant that no contesting candidate, bar the incumbent leader and her slate, would have access to basic information such as: who was in control of authenticating the electoral list, who was responsible for the verification of the authenticity of candidates, who would be in control of the internal elections process before and on the day of the elections, who appointed them, what exactly were their powers and functions, who was in control of the election-day machinery, what guarantee candidates had it would not be tampered with, who was responsible for the preparation and printing of the ballot papers, what guarantee candidates had that there would be no forgery, what physical arrangements were in place for the ballot boxes, and would the counting of the votes take place at the polling stations at the end of voting or at Rienzi Complex?
These are basic questions that any democratic organisation should be happy to answer in the interest of transparency and accountability—so why all the secrecy? This was the sentiment shared across the board by most candidates vying for positions on the national executive.
Because absolutely none of this crucial information was forthcoming, I was convinced that the election could and would not be free or fair, and that to contest the election would be to condone the way the process was being conducted. It made no sense to participate in an election where there were countless glaring irregularities and then complain about them and the elections after the fact.
That being said, the elections has now come and gone, and the UNC is about to embark upon another three years with Mrs Persad-Bissessar at the helm of an executive that has much work to do to rebuild the party’s image, credibility, attractiveness and institutions. A difficult task given that it was under Mrs Persad-Bissessar’s stewardship that all the of the party’s institutions and organs collapsed.
Mrs Persad-Bissessar needs to take responsibility for the decisions, or lack thereof, that were made during her five-year tenure as political leader of the party, which effectively rendered the party and its institutions inactive. She must begin by providing an explanation as to why in the last five years the previous executive under her leadership failed to hold an annual Constituency Congress for each constituency, a National Congress (mandated by the party’s Constitution to meet every three months), a National Assembly (mandated to meet at least once every year), a National Congress of Youth (mandated to meet at least once every three months), a National Congress of Women (mandated to meet at least once every three months) or even regular executive meetings (mandated to be held at least once per month).
Following that, a thorough analysis needs to be undertaken to examine why the party suffered six consecutive elections losses if it is to prepare itself for the Local Government elections next year. We cannot expect to do the same thing over and over and get different results.
Steps must be taken to return the party to the ideological position on which it was founded in order to restore the democracy and dignity of the party, so that all of its members, old and new, can hold their heads up high and be proud of their party. As it stands today, the membership sadly is unable to do so because of the manner in which internal elections was conducted.
More so, whether we choose to accept it or not, as long as the party is run by people perceived to be corrupt, it will never see the corridors of power again. Our members need to remember the ideology that led to the formation of the party, they need to understand and believe that it is not the leader or the National Executive that holds the power, but that it is the members themselves.