Leaders of some small parties on Wednesday lent support to former prime minister Basdeo Panday’s “small party unity” initiative for them to form a steering team which meets immediately after Carnival on the idea.
The agreement was reached at Wednesday’s meeting Panday held with the leaders at Gaston Court, Chaguanas meeting. About 100-plus people attended the talks to explore a united force for general elections, which Panday has offered as an option for voters disenchanted with PNM and UNC.
Panday, who chaired the meeting, said he felt small parties should put their groupings into hibernation temporarily and come together as a united entity. ILP leader Rekha Ramjit also said no coalition of small parties would work unless they dis-assembled their groups and become a third “driving force.”
Attendees at the meeting included COP’s Carolyn Seepersad Bachan, PPM’s Louis Lee Sing, ILP founder Jack Warner, John Humphrey, MND’s Garvin Nicholas, NNV’s Fuad Abu Bakr, San Fernando West candidate Jowelle De Souza, Progressive Party’s Nikoli Edwards, DPTT’s Steve Alvarez, and Phillip Franco. Also present were former UNC personalities Nizam Mohammed, Sadiq Baksh, Adesh Nanan, Manohar Ramsaran, Krish Jurai as well as COP’s Roger Samuel, UPTT’s Kenneth Munroe Brown.
Panday’s daughter Mikela attended but didn’t speak.
The steering team includes most of the leaders who attended. Nicholas however, said he’d consult his members. Abu Bakr who congratulated Panday said he’d consider. Views were largely supportive of Panday’s effort.
Panday who said time was against them, added those voters in the middle represented more than the support of the two big parties have. He said statistics showed this was about 34 per cent each. His proposals also included having a Parliament where the head of state was the head of Government elected on a first-past-the-post system rather than current arrangements.
“Why do we need a President?” He said also advocating a system where ministers can be grilled on issues.
Seepersad-Bachan said COP supports constitutional reform and a Parliament that equalises power. But she added that “partnership” isn’t a good word to use for the unity initiative.
“Nothing can return as a ‘Partnership.’ That formula has failed and nothing resembling that will succeed,” she added.
She said if there was a good leader she’d still work with the situation and she didn’t have to lead. But she said unless attendees were willing to support the drive with evidence on how unity could be created, “It won’t happen.”
De Souza felt Panday should lead the entity. Lee Sing who’d suggested the steering team advised finding the best person to lead who could “...take the smile off Rowley’s face and powder off Kamla’s.”
He questioned if people might query if Warner, for example, was chosen. But he said he supported Panday’s drive and people should “forget their pride and previous positions.” He said an organisation couldn’t be invented overnight to make a quantum leap from where they are to where they wish to be.
“This won’t be an easy assignment. It requires work in every nook and cranny, time’s of the essence. It could be a catalyst for change, but you need to start,” he said.
After statements, Panday said it had emerged the team should hold a smaller meeting privately, immediately. He suggested next week after Carnival. Ramjit took names of those serving on the team. PP’s Edwards said even if there’s no amalgamation, parties should find a way to work together and one area is by creating a data team which he said his party could do.
One attendee suggested the name of a third force party be “National United Front.”
Panday, expressing concern about violence in T&T, wondered if it was the beginning of an expression of violent revolution by people.