Corruption allegations put the People's Partnership (PP)/United National Congress (UNC) administration out of office in the 2010 general polls and more allegations or corruption-related charges against UNC members could well keep the UNC out of government in the 2020 general election.
It's not a PNMite saying that. It's former UNC Cumuto/Manzanilla MP and minister of state, Collin Partap doing so.
Partap, 46, an attorney, broke his silence on the party of which he's been a member since his teens—and he's not happy with the Opposition UNC's state, but has a positive view of the People's National Movement's (PNM) tenure.
Partap was removed by former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar from his post as a minister in National Security in August 2012, after refusing to do a police breathalyser test. Officers said they saw him leaving Zen nightclub drinking from an alcohol bottle, he entered his SUV, turned on the flashing blue lights and left. When he was stopped, he refused the test.
After being charged, on trial in July 2013, he was found guilty and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. Then magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar said this was necessary to deter potential offenders and because Partap was an MP, attorney and government minister, he should have led by example and complied with officers. His appeal was quashed. Partap remained a backbencher for the rest of the PP's term.
After PP lost office in September 2015, Partap has been building his legal practice and not been politically active with UNC or any other party.
He says, "T&T's politics will only change when there's meaningful constitutional reform. Also, UNC will find it hard to win key marginal constituencies it'll need to form government plus recent corruption-related allegations (moving to charges) might lead the electorate to 'feel' there was corruption.
"It was corruption allegations which forced Mrs Persad- Bissessar from the Government in 2015 and corruption-related charges could keep her out in 2020.
"Once the former attorney general (Anand Ramlogan) and UNC senator (Gerald Ramdeen) were charged, she'll have to decide whether to keep Ramdeen in the Senate. Especially since in the past she never waited for charges to be laid. Mere allegation was enough to remove ministers from her government."
Does Partap's "court experience" make him feel kinship with his colleagues now in the legal spotlight?
"I was gone (from the Government) in eight hours, so, no, I don't feel any kinship. And mine was a traffic offence. These are corruption-related charges," Partap added.
Gives PNM a grade B
He knocked holes into his former boss' address at last weekend's UNC anniversary function. He said she didn't detail how her promised plans—including 50,000 new jobs—would be created. "Throwing out of figures is old time politics...voters now expect more. Her speech was geared to launch the Local Government campaign so UNC's website should have fleshed out policies for voters to understand."
Plus Partap doesn't feel the constituency where he cut his political teeth as MP over 2010/15 is as election ready as it should be.
With that UNC assessment, Partap gives the PNM Government a "B" Grade for their term so far.
"The Prime Minister has openly declared war on corruption. His government has closed failing state enterprises, something no other government had the political guts to do. The steel mill and (Petrotrin) refinery will be operational soon with job creation. The economy may get a cash injection in the next couple of years which will increase economic growth and activity, including jobs. The appointment of Gary Griffith as Police Commissioner was one of Government's best decisions. I have hope he'll do his best and is doing his best to get a handle on the one element that could make or break the administration in the 2020 polls."
But on rumours that Partap may become politically active with his former party—or PNM—he says, "I cannot say if I'll return to politics. If the opportunity to serve T&T ever arises it'll be a difficult decision because it'll mean giving up my practice again coupled with long hours. But if I do, it must be with a political leader/party who was and is tackling corruption head-on and isn't afraid to make tough decisions in T&T's interest, even if it means they might lose an election."
He believes Vasant Bharath's recently launched movement "... is symptomatic of a frustrated electorate".
"How much he captures will be determined by his upcoming political manoeuvres. The Congress of the People may also have a say in the distribution of the undecided. But the two major parties will always be the main contenders."
Vasant sorry for Anand, Gerald
Yesterday Vasant Bharath said he felt the situation concerning Ramlogan and Ramdeen will "have a major impact on the UNC since they're frontliners. "
"Whether it'll cost (UNC) the election, it depends on the outcome of the matters. I don't know. But one must also feel a sense of sympathy and sorrow for both men as it must be a harrowing experience," he added.