Certain former frontline politicians from the United National Congress, People’s National Movement and Congress of the People are consolidating efforts which have been occurring in the last year to produce an alternative political offering to the ruling PNM and Opposition UNC.
Several members of the group spoke to the Sunday Guardian on the development last Friday and yesterday. They confirmed the group’s been putting together frameworks via discussions with different people, including known political faces, since 2017. But they stressed UNC founder Basdeo Panday isn’t involved.
At a December function held by UNC MP Ganga Singh, Singh and former UNC frontliners—Panday, ex-minister Vasant Bharath, Jack Warner and others—called for unity. But UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar recently said people were welcome to join UNC but it wasn’t returning to a coalition.
Subsequently, people working on an alternative offering have pushed forward. Key personalities from the various parties have been holding discussions with persons in silo groups. These involve former frontline PNM officials, ex PP/UNC ministers and MPs and former frontline COP members, the Sunday Guardian was told.
Apart from politicians, attorneys and economic experts, sources said the expected new grouping has “powerful” business backing, including “conglomerates,” a large Southern hardware family and other businesspeople. But they discounted claims an entity may be launched after Carnival.
Former UNC frontliner Bharath, who confirmed he’s in talks with one group, said, “The situation with the existing Government is hopeless. Unless the Opposition puts its house in order, we’re going to be left with this Government for many years. I don’t think that’s in the people’s interest.”
Former COP frontliner and Senate president, attorney Timothy Hamel-Smith, without being specific on any effort, said he believed people all over T&T are having talks.
“What’s emerging is, there’s a need for change in the governance to transform T&T. It’s too early to suggest a party may emerge, there are different ways to effect change. But in T&T power is perhaps the way one can effect transformation,” he said.
Hamel-Smith launched the unsuccessful Third Force Movement in 2015 with Nicole Dyer-Griffith’s Alliance of Independents and the National Alliance for Reconstruction.
Suspended PNMite Harry Ragoonanan (former PNM Oropouche chairman) also confirmed he has a group holding talks. He was suspended from PNM in 2017 on alleged bid-rigging.
“But PNM’s constitution says if a matter isn’t dealt with in six months it’s null and void. My senior counsel sent PNM a letter last Friday, telling them to deal with the matter or drop it,” Ragoonanan said.
On a political alternative, Vasant Bharath said, “It’s simply time for something new. Existing parties have failed T&T. We’re looking forward with hope for something that can provide good governance and restore T&T to what it was.”
He confirmed talks have been occurring with UNC people, some from PNM and COP.
Former PP ministers Larry Howai, Kevin Ramnarine and Stacy Roopnarine weren’t available to clarify if they were involved. Sources said “one or two” former PNM officials who’d contested last year’s PNM internal poll were also in discussions.
Ex PNM minister Minister Karen Tesheira-Nunez said, “Regarding any alternative group, I’m not in any group.”
Former PNMite Louis Lee Singh said he wasn’t in talks with any one group but felt T&T’s tired of what’s available politically and wants something with new dispensation and direction.
“I’ll continue talks with the understanding T&T needs to move from where it’s at now. If T&T’s to have a future, it has to do with us rejecting the past and present and moving forward. There are many who put country first even if they belong to other parties. Those people will break the stranglehold we’ve been forced to accept,” Lee Singh said.
Panday meanwhile said no one had approached him on the development.
“If anyone does I’m prepared to listen to anyone in an effort to make T&T better. People misunderstood what I’d said about unity in December. What I meant was unity of all people. It’s only when people unite, can we solve T&T’s problems,” said Panday, whose daughter Mickela’s also preparing to launch a party.