Former United National Congress (UNC) Minister, Vasant Bharath is once again calling on the party’s incumbent leader to ensure that the party’s internal elections are conducted fairly.
During a news conference at his San Juan office yesterday, Bharath, who is challenging incumbent Kamla Persad-Bissessar for the leadership role in the December 6 election, said the voice of the party’s membership is being suppressed by Persad-Bissessar’s administration.
“Unfair elections serve no one except dictators, and those who are addicted to a position despite not achieving any tangible results while holding that position,” Bharath said.
He said there seemed to be a misconception by Persad-Bissessar as he said the internal election is not about the leadership but about the party’s ordinary members.
He said as a contender in this election, he felt it was his duty to preserve a fair process.
Bharath said his recent requests to Persad-Bissessar for a meeting to decide on the members of an election committee were ignored.
“The current UNC leadership, in response to what all right-thinking members would agree is a reasonable request, instead of having those consultations with us, has hurriedly and without notice appointed an election committee on its own and then has told me to take my concerns to that committee. In other words, they have done is to appoint a judge in their own cause. That violates all principles of fairness and I say respectfully that a Senior Counsel should know better,” Bharath said.
He said this move was an insult to the party and its members and slammed Persad-Bissessar for questioning the country’s national election process.
“They use arguments of election unfairness when it suits them to fool supporters into thinking that they were cheated but the reality is that they have no interest in fostering a culture of electoral integrity.”
Bharath said he has been told by members that although they will vote for him, they do not believe he will win. He said those members were concerned because Persad-Bissessar has ‘control’ of the party’s list of members.
“Those statements represent fear and anxiety among our membership that things cannot change because those who are in power may have abused their positions. As a membership, we in the UNC must reject that and be brave and courageous despite the odds. I wish to tell those members who have similar concerns: do not be afraid, come out and vote, vote to express your discontent with the party,” he said.
He urged his supporters within the party not to feel powerless or weak as he accused Persad-Bissessar of trying to suppress change within the UNC.
“Their only tactic is to suppress discussion. Their only tactic is to suppress dissent. For instance, there is a widespread call for a leadership debate in our party. The UNC has the chance to demonstrate mature democracy through the holding of a leadership debate, but the current leadership has said nothing and will probably not say anything about a debate.”
Bharath said in addition to his other concerns, he now does not know who is the party’s General Secretary as Dave Tancoo has indicated he no longer holds that position since he was appointed as a Member of Parliament.
But Bharath said the functions of the General Secretary were still being carried out.
“Information has come to us that hundreds of applications for membership have been approved recently. So, the question is, who is approving these applications? Who is approving these new members? There seems to be institutional chaos in the UNC. I call on the UNC to state publicly who is the current General Secretary of the party?”