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MPs to meet on election date debate

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The United National Congress (UNC) will hold a meeting of the party’s Congress next Tuesday to discuss a letter of complaint from Caroni Central Member of Parliament Ganga Singh who says the National Executive (Natex) is acting ultra vires of party’s constitution to hold early elections for the post of political leader.

Singh said the letter was emailed to UNC general secretary Dave Tancoo and all opposition MPs at 4.30 pm on Monday. While he has received no official response, Singh believes the calling of the Congress for 5 pm on October 31 is a direct response.

“They may have gotten the sequence wrong but governance is about building by the rules and constitution of the party,” he said.

Singh said it was never his intention to create bickering in the party, but “to ensure that due process and procedure were followed.”

He is concerned, he said, that there was no consultation on the decision taken at a Natex meeting on Friday night.

“It left no room for consultation, no room for discussion, but provided the membership with a fait accompli,” he said.

The Caroni Central MP said the UNC’s constitution has clear timelines for the terms of office of the political leader and Natex.

“Unless you change the constitution you have to do your duty for the extent of your term. Any attempt to limit that must be in accordance with the constitution,” he said.

On Monday, Tancoo told the T&T Guardian there was nothing to debar the political leader from calling leadership elections at an earlier date. He compares it to a prime minister calling an early election.

However, Singh dismissed that argument saying: “His fundamentals are wrong. The Prime Minister is guided by the Constitution and there is no power inherent in the political leader similar to that of a prime minister.”

Singh said the framers of the UNC constitution separated the election of political leader because “the history of the party has demonstrated whenever you have a fight with two aspirants for political leadership, together with the party membership, you have a rift in the party. As a result, the framers of the party separated the competition for political leadership from the party membership.”

He said when the party’s Congress meets next Tuesday once it takes a position to change the constitution, “whatever is the wish of the party we will abide by it.”

“Currently it is not the wish of the party for the political leader to determine the extent of her tenure. That power does not lie with the political leader. It is fixed for a three-year period barring resignation, death or any other cause,” he said.


In 2001 when the UNC held elections for a National Executive, UNC founder and then political leader Basdeo Panday announced he was not supporting any slate in the election. However, word on the ground was that he was supporting then Works and Transport Minister Carlos John for the position of deputy political leader.

Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj’s Team Unity won 21 out of the 24 positions on the executive, with Maharaj himself elected as deputy political leader, beating John, for the position. Panday scuttled the executive and took control.

Panday, however, did not contest the 2005 election for the post of political leader because of pressures within and outside the party. It was also a time when he had a matter before the court. Winston Dookeran assumed the leadership.

In 2010 Kamla Persad-Bissessar beat Basdeo Panday for the leadership of the UNC by a vote of 13,493 to 1,359.

In 2012 Panday threatened legal action against the leadership of the UNC if his slate of candidates was not allowed to file nomination papers in the internal election. He accused the leadership of trying to steal the election.

In that election, Jack Warner was elected chairman of the party.

In 2015 Persad-Bissessar was challenged by Vasant Bharath and Roodal Moonilal for the post of political leader.

Persad-Bissessar tallied 17,502 votes, Moonilal secured 1,821 votes and Bharath 1,305 votes.


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