Last Saturday’s reunion between United National Congress political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and former Independent Liberal Party leader Austin Jack Warner, who had not spoken for ten years, has received positive feedback from party chairman Dave Tancoo and other party front liners.
However, former UNC MP Ramona Ramdial says while she was happy to see Persad-Bissessar and Warner reconnect after so many years, she is not convinced it was genuine unity.
Persad-Bissessar recently made a call for unity between the UNC, other opposition parties, and people negatively affected by the People’s National Movement Government.
Warner and Persad-Bissessar reconnected at the “I Love Choka” fete at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya. They hadn’t spoken to each other since he resigned from her People’s Partnership administration in 2013.
There had been bitterness between the two, but in an interview last year, Warner said he had forgiven Persad-Bissessar and would support her as she was the “lesser of the two evils” and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was “bad news.”
Commenting on this development yesterday, Tancoo said, “In the hard times Trinidad and Tobago has had and in today’s world of so many negatives, the positivity demonstrated by those two people last Saturday was welcomed, as it showed they were willing—and big enough—to put aside their differences, stand together again and work for Trinidad and Tobago’s interest.”
UNC deputy political leader Roodal Moonilal added: “A foundation principle of the UNC is national unity. It’s not only the raison d’etre of the party but the sin qua non of national sustainable development. No one should dare question the goal of unity.”
But Ramdial is waiting to see what happens next.
“While I was happy to see them together after so long being apart, I remain unconvinced. I believe it was a photo op and a pappyshow,” Ramdial said.
“I will only be convinced it’s genuine unity when I see real talks on at UNC headquarters and thereafter see an amalgamation moving forward together. Until then, to me, it’s just a front.”
But other UNC executive members said the response to the leaders’ “lime” was so good that it surprised some people.
“But it’s a good example that while these two leaders had their issues and bitterness, Mrs Persad-Bissessar embraced Jack and welcomed him back to conversations showing her call for unity is genuine,” one executive member said.
“It was as easy as making a step forward and anyone else who is inactive and wanted to return could have done it. Jack seems to have made the effort to attend the fete and it flowed from there. Fuad (Khan) or any of the others could have done something like that. But although Fuad made his unity call, he didn’t attend the Congress where he wanted it debated.”
Warner said he had been happy to reconnect with his former political colleague and was awed and humbled by the “absolutely and totally fantastic, positive” feedback he had received.
People who were with Warner and Persad-Bissessar at the event last Saturday, said Warner had made his position clear and the situation was evolving.
UNC will be meeting another group this week and business organisations on Friday.
National Transformation Alliance (NTA) leader Gary Griffith had no comment on the development with Warner. He also maintained his “no comment” position on the UNC’s unity call. Sources close to Griffith said he is being “very strategic and tactical.”
PNM officials, meanwhile, have heaped scorn on the Warner/Persad-Bissessar reconnection as untrustworthy. Citing Warner’s fight against US extradition on FIFA corruption allegations, they accused the UNC of being desperate.