The United National Congress (UNC) is now looking for a new headquarters after being served notice to leave the place its has called home for the past 27 years.
The All Trinidad General Workers' Trade Union (ATGWTU) has given the UNC until the end of this month to pack its bags and move out of the historical Rienzi Complex in Couva.
Sunday Guardian understands that the party is unable to pay a monthly rental fee of $25,000. Party chairman David Lee, in a release said the UNC said the union was reluctant to provide the UNC with a long-term lease and subsequently indicated its wish for the UNC to leave the premises without cause.
The complex had previously served as headquarters to the United Labour Front led by Basdeo Panday.
Luckily, former prime minister Panday who lost leadership in 2010 has been allowed to continue occupying his space.
Sunday Guardian was told that Panday had earned the right to stay at Rienzi Complex for as long as he wanted to have an office there.
The Basdeo Panday Foundation, of which Panday is chairman, has been housed at the Rienzi Colpex since its inception in 2010.
Sources said a notice of eviction was served about two weeks ago by the union who is the landlord and that several letters had also been sent requesting meetings to negotiate.
"The party was paying rental fee of $2,500 up to 2012 but that increased to $12,000. After four years, the union increased to $25,000 this year but it seems the UNC is unable to pay that sum," the source said.
President general of the ATGWTU Nirvan Maharaj yesterday said he had no comments on the matter.
In October last year Maharaj formed his own political party - the National Solidarity Assembly (NSA) whose headquarters are at the Rienzi Complex.
The NSA is made up of ATGWTU members and former Caroni workers.
Rienzi Complex is owned by the union and not the UNC and as such, the UNC has to abide by the union's rules.
Rienzi Complex was named after former labour leader Adrian Cola Rienzi. He was the founder of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union and the then All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Union. Panday later served as president general of the ATGWTU from 1973 to 1995. It was at that location, in the bowels of the sugarcane movement that the UNC's first and second prime ministers held their victory speeches.
The complex has also held many political rallies, functions, screenings and other party events.
On Friday, the launch for local government elections screening was held at the Siparia Market Complex, an event that is normally held at Rienzi Complex.
Sunday Guardian was yesterday informed that since 2011 the union tried to hold negotiations with the UNC but "unfortunately, they did not meet with us and basically let it lapse. They did not even bother to meet with us and talk about the terms and conditions and so on. The UNC chairman (David Lee) and MP for Couva South (Rudy Indarsingh) met for a discussion a few weeks ago and it seemed that the new rental fee could not be met by the party."
Indarsingh served as the president general of the ATGWTU from 1999 to 2012 before he was replaced by Maharaj.
The source said there had always been a "particular relationship" with the political party because of the historical dynamics and that the matter was a long outstanding issue in which the UNC failed to meet and negotiate with the union.
"By not having a lease arrangement they are actually month to month tenants in law so now we have a situation where we instituted new terms and conditions and it seems they are able to meet them."
The letter sent earlier this month indicated that failure to agree with the union's terms and conditions "we would have no choice but to ask them to give up the premises by July 31."
Hinting at ingratitude, the source said: "The greatest sin a person can commit is to show ingratitude or to take the ones closest to them for granted. It is not a political issue. Politics has nothing to with it. This is a landlord/tenant issue and at the end of the day the economics of the world has changed. What was offered in the past can longer be offered now."
Sunday Guardian was told that the UNC paid a "flat $12,000" and never had to pay for water, electricity or even toilet paper.
The UNC's release confirmed that the party was asked to vacate Rienzi Complex and that the rental fee was increased to $25,000.
It said: "To date the UNC has paid all rentals for the use of the premises including the increased rental. It is important to note that the increased rent was accompanied by the union implementing a month to month agreement with the party."
Chairman Lee said he sought to undertake negotiations with the union by meeting with Maharaj to reach an agreement beneficial to both parties but this proved to be unsuccessful.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar did not respond to calls on her mobile or text messages, whiles calls to Rudy Indarsingh's phone went unanswered.
Former UNC chairman Jack Warner who was elected in 2007 and stepped down in April 2013 yesterday said he felt very sad.
He said Rienzi was a place Panday had and it was there the UNC was born.
Warner said people like Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, John Humphrey and Kelvin Ramnath passed through Rienzi.
"And the fact that they have been evicted, not moved, they have been evicted with no place to go is a very sad day indeed.
"It is a sad day for politics and a sad day for the Opposition. I wish times were different but then again what you plant is what you reap," warner added.