The birthplace of the United National Congress (UNC)–the historical Rienzi Complex–is now home to a new political party. The National Solidarity Assembly (NSA), launched yesterday at the UNC base, is made up of members of the All Trinidad General Workers Union (ATGWU) and ex-Caroni workers.
The party, led by ATGWU head Nirvan Maharaj, is a breakaway faction of the UNC, but as the Rienzi Complex is owned by the union it has first preference for its use.
"The UNC can continue to rent here but it is strictly a landlord/tenant relationship and as long as they honour that agreement they can continue to stay," Maharaj told the Sunday Guardian in an interview after the party launch.
Maharaj, who spoke last at yesterday's launch, said the NSA would challenge the UNC in the upcoming Local Government elections.
Maharaj blasted both UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and his predecessor Rudy Indarsingh for using the ex-Caroni workers to get into office and then turning their backs on them soon after elections.
"The UNC betrayed their people. The believe they have a divine right to my vote just because I look like them and that is not true," Maharaj said.
He said Persad-Bissessar did not even show up at Rienzi after the election loss on September 7 and that proved to the supporters that she was only interested in "using" them for votes but did not care about them.
He said the former government gave away lands earmarked for Caroni workers to their "friends" who owned companies and then said that there were no more lands for the ex-Caroni workers.
"Now that they lost elections, they are telling us to 'come back home'. Come back home to what? You cannot take those words and go to the supermarket," Maharaj told the substantial gathering.
Maharaj said the same condemnation the ATGWU had levelled against the PNM after 2007 was the same level of condemnation they were now levelling at the UNC.
"They use race to pit us against each other so that when we are so busy fighting each other on the ground we do not see the failings of our leaders," he said.
Maharaj said as many as 6,000 ex-Caroni workers were still awaiting the lands promised to them and cited the 2007 Deyalsingh judgement which granted the former sugar workers the legal rights to the lands which were politically promised to them in 2003.
But now, some 12 years later, the ATGWU is pushing back.
"Today is a glorious day because united we are going to tell the PNM (People's National Movement) and the UNC that enough is enough," Maharaj said.
In a subsequent interview, Maharaj said he had no thoughts on the UNC's internal elections but had already visited 13 electorates under the NSA banner.
"I have divorced myself from the UNC, so internal elections is their business. It is going to be difficult and daunting to start this political challenge but we are ready for it," he said.
Persad-Bissessar launched her campaign for internal elections yesterday in Penal. Indarsingh did not return calls to his mobile phone.