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RamJack, Panday in talks

Monday, December 9, 2013
Political Leader of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) Jack Warner, left, and his Deputy Political Leader Lyndra Oudit speak with Former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj after the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union meeting, at Rienzi Complex in Couva yesterday, moments before entering a private meeting with former prime minister Basdeo Panday. PHOTO:RISHI RAGOONATH

Once they were sworn enemies. Now it appears former prime minister Basdeo Panday, former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj,  SC, and Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner have found unity in a common enemy—Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.



Yesterday the trio, together with ILP deputy leaders Lyndira Oudit and Anna Deonarine, Banking Insurance and General Workers Trade Union president general Vincent Cabrera and an unidentified man in a COP shirt, held private talks at the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union conference room, Rienzi Complex, Couva. Former UNC MP Mikela Panday was also in the meeting.


Photographers attempted to get a photograph of the three men in the conference room. However, Panday refused. He said, “Why should I prostitute myself for a picture.” The photographers were then told to leave the room by an official who said they were about to have “private meeting.” Their meeting followed a mass conference with cane farmers and ex-Caroni workers on the upper floor of Rienzi Complex which was packed. Attendees lined the back and sides of the conference area as all the seats were filled.


At that meeting Panday, who delivered the feature address, called on the farmers and ex-workers to rise up and reclaim the United National Congress (UNC) from the Persad-Bissessar-led executive. This was also echoed by Maharaj in his address. He said the UNC ship, its captain and crew have “run aground.” “I will try to save the ship. I will work with anyone to save the ship, but I cannot say I will be able to save the captain and the crew,” Maharaj said.


Both he and Panday argued that the party has abandoned its founding principles. Maharaj said he remains a member of the UNC since he has lifetime membership and cannot sit by and watch the party’s base, the sugar workers, being disrespected. He said the residential and agricultural leases that have been issued to the ex-Caroni workers are “not worth the paper” they are printed on. 


Maharaj, who declared that he was “blasted vex,” tore a copy of a residential lease during his speech. He said the workers were betrayed and should have received deeds of conveyance not leases. The deeds, he said, would give them ownership of the lands unlike the leases which come with stipulations. He said if the workers breach the stipulations the land can be taken away from them. “They provoking me,” Maharaj declared.


Yesterday Panday urged the workers to press the UNC executive to call internal elections in the party, which he said, were “long overdue.” He also urged them to contest the elections and ensure that it is free and fair. “You must not allow what happened in the 2010 to happen again,” he said. He said the People’s Partnership government is no different from the People’s National Movement (PNM) since it has turned its back on the very people—the sugar workers, who put them in power.


The sugar workers, he said, never expected that the PP would have betrayed them. “The PP government is ten times worse that their former tormentors,” Panday told ex-Caroni workers. Panday said the current UNC is not the UNC that the sugar workers gave their blood, sweat and tears to build and they must reclaim what is theirs. “You must take back your party, you must that back what is yours, what you gave birth too,” he urged.


He told the ex-Caroni workers that they are being disrespected by the current UNC executive and the government. “The time has come for you to stand up and protest. They treat you like dogs because they believe that you will be satisfied with bones,” Panday declared.
He described the residential and agricultural leases that were being distributed to the workers as a “con game” since no bank would accept the lease as security for loans.


He also questioned the drafting of the leases and the timing of the distribution of the leases, 441 of which were handed out last Wednesday in Couva. Panday stressed the need for constitutional reform so promises made by parties, such as the those made by the UNC to the former workers, will be enshrined in law and if they breach the promises they will be breaking a contract.



...‘Take back the UNC’



Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner says if the United National Congress (UNC) rids itself of the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led executive then his party will re-consider its relevance in T&T politics. Warner made the statement last afternoon as he spoke with reporters at the close of an All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union cane farmers conference at Rienzi Complex, Couva.



The ILP leader attended the conference which featured speeches from former prime minister Basdeo Panday and former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj. Both Panday and Maharaj called on the cane farmers and ex-Caroni workers attending the conference to take back the UNC from the Persad-Bissessar-led executive.


They maintained that the party has lost its principles and has turned its back on the sugar workers, all of whom gave the UNC their support to get them into government. Warner shared their view. He said Panday and Maharaj made the point that government has “deceived the people, has pulled a con job on them and they made the point also the UNC of today is not the UNC of yesterday that they know, that they belonged to.” 


Warner said Panday was right to say the UNC that they knew would not have put up Khadijah Ameen to go against him (in the Chaguanas By-election). “The fact is when I formed a party, the party was formed against the UNC (Persad-Bissessar-led executive). When they UNC is locked in a room then we shall sit down and look to see if we should have an ILP or not,” Warner said. Warner admitted that even though he is the leader of his own political party, “I never left the old UNC. I left Kamla UNC.”


“Kamla UNC is a different UNC entirely and ILP was formed in protest against Kamla UNC, Kamla, Khadijah, Moonilal and Suraj Rambachan. That is their UNC. Panday UNC (which) Panday asked me to join I have never left that UNC and if ever the only UNC comes back then we will sit down and see whether the ILP will still be relevant or not,” Warner said. 


The ILP leader said he was impressed with yesterday’s conference and believed that Panday and Maharaj, once his sworn enemies, spoke “extremely well.” Warner, who was joined by his deputy political leaders Anna Deonarine and Lyndira Oudit, was mobbed by sugar workers who shook his hand and welcomed him back to Rienzi Complex. It was the first time he returned to the UNC hallowed grounds after forming his own party earlier this year.


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