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Can Kamla lead UNC to victory?
On October 21, 2015, almost six years after the UNC changed leadership, a press release was issued by the General Secretary of the UNC, Dave Tancoo, stating that the National Executive met and decided the internal elections would be held on December 5, 2015, for all 18 positions on the party’s national executive. This included the position of political leader. One week after the announcement, on October 28, an unsigned notice was published in the newspapers listing “important deadlines.”
In a case of déjà vu, two years later, with elections due for all positions on the national executive, except political leader, on Friday, October 20, 2017, the UNC announced it would hold its internal elections on November 26, 2017 for all 18 positions on the national executive (Natex), including the position of political leader. On the following day, a “notice” was published in a newspaper listing “important dates to be noted.”
Not surprisingly, serious concerns were raised and voiced in response to this unilateral decision made by the national executive because under the constitution Natex had no power to call an early election for the post of political leader.
Whilst the logistics of a political party’s internal election do not often capture the attention of the general public, this action prompted a leading Senior Counsel to pen a letter to the UNC political leader advising her if she failed to resign as political leader of the party before the election for leader is held, the election would be “ultra vires the UNC constitution and thus illegal.” In my respectful view, resignation for the purpose of calling an early election only to be re-elected would have only exacerbated the abuse of the UNC constitution.
He further stated that the political leader would be sending the signal that she is more concerned with consolidating her position as leader of the UNC and Opposition Leader than adhering to the principles and rules of the party constitution. Senior Counsel’s warning, that if she is prepared to breach her party’s constitution then she cannot be “trusted to head a Cabinet which will adhere to the spirit and rule of law of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago,” deserves attention.
By holding the leadership election one year early, Mrs Persad-Bissessar is seeking to ensure that she will be leading the UNC into the next general elections which are likely to be held around September 7, 2020. The question therefore arises, will the UNC be in a better position to unseat the PNM after the internal elections this Sunday with the results already determined?
At the risk of incurring the wrath of some, my humble opinion is no. Unless and until the party’s institutions are strengthened and the albatrosses around the neck of the UNC, including those involved in the previous election charades who are now engineering this farce of an election, are removed.
Even that may not be enough because unfortunately, as leader, Mrs Persad-Bissessar personally faces an uphill battle not least because she is leading a fractured party, but more so because she has dramatically lost the national support she enjoyed in 2010, as demonstrated by six successive election loses during her tenure as Prime Minister. You cannot fight and win a general election based solely on the PNM’s incompetence and by dividing the population on race.
The party must begin by heeding and focussing on realising the vision described by the founding father as “to transform Trinidad and Tobago into the best place to live; by mobilising the diverse talents of our population and the natural resources of our country, so that ours will be a knowledge-based society with a globally competitive, technological driven and diversified economy that will sustain full employment, growing prosperity, equal opportunity, a secure life, social cohesion, and the highest standard of life for all citizens.” All we need is the political will. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
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