Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh’s announcement that he is stepping aside from the 2020 general elections is the latest in an extensive house cleaning exercise by the United National Congress before the event.
Numerous UNC sources confirm to Guardian Media that the party will be coming with fresh, younger faces that it hopes will put behind what some saw as a stumbling block to electability in the party.
During a virtual meeting on Thursday night, Gopeesingh finally announced his position.
“History never really says goodbye, history says see you later. So I will see you later, on the campaign trail as I lend my support, expertise, experience and skills to our distinguished political leader and her team and to all our candidates,” he said.
“And then, God willing, I will see you all again, on the other side of the elections when we take back Government and bring back hope and progress to this country.”
Apart from Gopeesingh, almost the entire old guard are going, with Dr Suruj Rambachan bowing out and Dr Bhohandranath Tewarie also expected to be out although he is being screened for the seat. Ganga Singh also did not sign nomination papers and said his decision was based on the fact he and leader Kamla Persad-Bisssessar did not agree on a united approach to tackling the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM).
In an interview yesterday, Singh said, “I made it absolutely clear that I am not contesting because from the time the leader took a position of going it alone and dismissively rejected our proposals, I recognise that I could not contest the seat. I believe that history has shown us that going it alone is the wrong approach as an appropriate pathway to power. I said don’t agree with that position.”
Asked how he felt now that Dr Fuad Khan, who supported his view, appeared to be interested in contesting the San Juan-Barataria seat, Singh said, “That is a matter for him.”
He said history is replete with examples and legacy of the opposition unable to win alone, saying the only time that happened was in 2000 when the party was in government.
UNC sources say Prakash Ramadhar is also out as the party has made it clear it will be putting up its candidate in the St Agustine safe seat. Senator Khadijah Ameen is earmarked for the seat although there is a possibility she could be sent to fight Toco-Sangre Grande. Ramadhar has not as yet been spoken to by Persad-Bissessar on the issue.
Party sources say the UNC wanted a younger more dynamic candidate over Tewarie. But Tewarie has insisted he is going to be screened.
“I am being screened and will await the outcome,” Tewarie told Guardian Media.
Asked if he had heard the party wanted a younger candidate, he said, “That’s OK but I would not like to engage the matter.”
Rodney Charles is also expected to bow out and is likely to return to the UN should the UNC be victorious in the elections.
“The leader likes him and would want him on the team but the reality is that Rodney is getting on in age and he would prefer to return to the work he started in the UN. But having said that, if she insists she wants him to stay in Naparima he will be prepared to take one for the team,” a source told GML.
Reached yesterday, Charles said he has been screened and is waiting on whatever Persad-Bissessar decides.
“Whatever happens I am 100 per cent UNC and committed to the party,” Charles said.
Also out Oropouche West MP Vidya Gayadeen-Gopeesingh, who insiders say has not made an impression on the national landscape and will not contest the safe seat.
The Couva North safe seat is also likely to have a new standard bearer, with insiders saying incumbent Ramona Ramdial will not be selected, although has signed nomination papers.
Cumuto/Manzanilla incumbent Christine Newallo-Hosein is also facing a similar fate. In an interview yesterday, she said while she was screened she was not told if she was successful.
Asked how she felt about the screening, Newallo-Hosein, “I think it went well. We had frank discussions. You know I like frank discussion. Sometimes frank discussions go well for some and not for others so we will see.”
Newallo-Hosein insisted she had done a lot of work in her constituency but agreed that does not guarantee a return. She is facing stiff competition from former Energy minister Kevin Ramnarine, Glen Ram, Mitra Ramdial and two other activists.
The UNC’s screening committee includes Persad-Bissessar, David Lee, Jearlene John, Dave Tanco and Peter Kanhai.