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The party’s over: Raffique weighs in on UNC’s internal catfight for leadership

Choosing a leader to take the United National Congress forward, backward, sideways, or keep it stagnated, is the business of members of the party.

It is not for me, who never belonged to any party other than the original United Labour Front, and that very briefly, to tell UNC members who they should elect as their leader, the way frontline members of the UNC openly lobbied for Penny Beckles over Keith Rowley during the internal elections in the People’s National Movement in May 2014.

Photo: Former PNM Senator Pennelope Beccles.
Photo: Former PNM Senator Pennelope Beccles.

In retrospect, perhaps because the UNC openly promoted Penny, she not only lost the leadership battle, but also her credibility as a loyal PNMite—a thrashing from which the affable one-time Arima MP has not recovered.

So outsiders intervening in the internal affairs of political parties is never a good thing.

Still, because the UNC under incumbent leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar won a landslide victory at the polls in 2010, wielded power for five years and today remains a potent opposition with 18 seats, its affairs must be subjected to public scrutiny, hence my observations.

My innate feelings in the aftermath of the party’s defeat in the September 7 election were firstly, its leaders and supporters were in shock. And secondly, once reality hit home and its bombastic front-liners and cheerleaders realised they no longer controlled the Treasury, they would turn against each other like alley cats or rabid mongrels fighting over scraps.

What I did not anticipate was that Kamla, as leader, having postponed internal elections for political leader and a new executive for almost three years, would choose a most inauspicious time to call them.

Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal. (Courtesy Baltimore Post)
Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal.
(Courtesy Baltimore Post)

Maybe unlike when she held power and was always “advised”, she now has no one to turn to, hence the humongous mistake.

Hey, 340,000 supporters are still licking their wounds, casting blame for being booted into the political wilderness, and you put your fractured crown up for the grab?

Many supporters believe that the PNM was in cahoots with the Elections and Boundaries Commission, and stole the elections in the extra hour voting the EBC allowed.

This is the same EBC that presided over the 2010 general election that the UNC/PP won, the local government elections that followed which the PP swept, and even the 2009 Tobago House of Assembly election which saw the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) emerge as a potent force that would add to the PP’s strength in 2010.

That issue is before the courts, so I shan’t dwell on it. But I find it strange that the EBC’s integrity was not challenged when the PP won, only when it lost.

So the party faithful are nursing their wounds and Kamla calls elections: she must be mad!

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections. (Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)
Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections.
(Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)

Not that she will lose, although that prospect hovers over any election. She is likely to retain leadership, albeit without acclamation, and that only because her opponents are so… unattractive.

“Stink mout’” Roodal Moonilal, the only person to have declared his hand thus far, does not even command the “Indian vote” far less the non-Indian electors who belong to no party but whose votes and influence decide who govern the country.

Vasant Bharath has some cross-border appeal, but he is too timid to engage in the mud wrestling or cage fights that will characterise the elections.

The others have all surrendered their manhood or womanhood to Maha Kamla, proclaiming her as the earthly embodiment of a supreme deity, a leader who is infallible.

Her far too many missteps and mistakes when she wielded power were all condoned by them. No one questioned her hiring of misfits or firing the faithful. As recently as in the run-up to the September general election, when she foisted wholly unsuitable candidates in key constituencies, they applauded.

Photo: Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

So what, you are now coming to tell us that she was wrong on numerous counts? When did you make these startling discoveries? Last night? Gimme a break!

The UNC sycophants have always been the party’s undertakers-in-waiting, wearing their funereal garb even as they celebrated the occasional wedding—in 1986, 1995, 2000 and 2010.

They, who point accusatory fingers at PNMites who worshipped Dr Eric Williams as a demigod, sanctified their own supreme leaders in Basdeo Panday and Kamla.

The irony of it all is that Bas—before whom no damn dog dared to bark—is now accusing his protégé of having dictatorial tendencies. What a laugh!

If I may sum up the UNC’s dilemma, the party is now in the self-destruct mode, matters not whether Kamla or Moonilal or Padarath takes the helm.

Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. (Courtesy Kamla2015.TT)
Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath.
(Courtesy Kamla2015.TT)

The in-fighting that will occur during the campaign will the worst ever in its history, and will leave behind a carcass for vultures.

The party’s over, people.

AboutRaffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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93 comments

  1. Lasana this is the same crowd that thinks that the number that voted after 6 pm caused them to lose the GE!

  2. What is there to sue about with that kind of licks? Moonilal was complain about a 10,000 list. Even if you took them all out, he still loses.

  3. So long to count a few ballots?

  4. Let’s wait for the lawsuits now. That’s their only hope to prolong this… They r now in a party where the leaders don’t want them, and they can’t walk away.

  5. I wonder who tell Moonilal he popular?
    Daiz how people with no talent does end up auditioning for American Idol yuh know?

  6. Vasant Bharath
    40 mins · Edited ·
    Congratulations to Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her team on their victory at the UNC internal elections.
    The work to rebuild and reinvigorate this great party has only just begun and we wish the new National Executive well in their endeavours.
    We at Team Reconnect remain deeply committed and at the service of the UNC and it’s members…

  7. UNC INTERNAL ELECTIONS
    KPB-15477
    RM- 1466
    VB- 1102
    Preliminary results show Mrs Kamla Persad Bissessar leading in the UNC internal elections. The counting of ballots ended at around 6:30 am. Final results are still to be released.

  8. Did Tanty deliver a victory speech?
    I know she didn’t run home in a PH taxi like after the General Election!

  9. From Chandani Boodoo: Kamla Persad Bissessar 2839
    Roodal Moonilal 253
    Vasant Bharath 154

  10. Party done yet? Where’s Ravi Balgobin Maharaj with the post-mortem?

  11. Since when rafique shah opinion matters. Furthermore whomever believes there is an internal catfight is terribly misguided.

  12. I think the only thing worse than skamla would be moneylal

  13. Mr Shah is so very right….Party Done…

  14. Not one of them palatable to the national public.

  15. Kamla was never PM material an the country learn that the hard way the UNC right now is dead it must be buried an rise with new faces an new vision.

  16. They like crabs in a barrel wondering who will win power hungry

  17. No youth to regenerate that party, opposition for a longtime. Kamla was the best thing two months ago now they running from her like a leper.

  18. all the same…revolutionary bourgeoisies rooted in the bogus instrument of govt that the masses are brainwashed in

  19. I think many of us are making the mistake of thinking that politics, well, more accurately electoral behavior, is arithmetic; it is not. It’s algebra. Internal election or not, there are many, many invisible and perhaps even imponderable factors that impinge here, which, I think, is why Kamla has the edge in a straight fight with the nationally unpopular Moonilal.

  20. Does anyone believe that the whole UNC internal election is already planned? Like Tanty Kams doesn’t want to be the Opposition Leader and Political Leader of the UNC anymore so they put on a show like a battle is about to go on and she’s going to die fighting with her boots on for the peepur (people lol) when it is really a charade and the next man for the job is Moonilal?

    I mean, to be honest, after the five long years of turmoil, I would like to sit back and watch them pay for their actions by tackling each other, but, I’m just wondering if it’s just a show? Maybe Kams just wants to go home and rest and the whole internal election is a farce…

    • What an interesting idea! But like the quaint notion that the UNC did not want to win the last general elections, there is absolutely no compelling evidence to support the view that this is nothing but mas. At least, there is none that I can see.

  21. Kamla is their God they worship her fallen image,their internal elections is a waste it’s never fair plus there to many old cabalist fighting for positions, there no diversity in any of the line up, no appeal to a wider National community ,oh how they missing Warner and others ,need rebranding new candidates to be successful.

  22. nd corruption prosecutions eh start yet

  23. Richard Zen O’Brien, I just saw this comment in another group: “Raffique…don’t be an arse.. was the voting time extended illegally in 2010.”
    So it does seem, amazingly, that some people really still believe that the EBC cheated the UNC at the polls. That is really serious.
    So I hope the court solves this once and for all.

  24. There was also a nasty fight for the PNM internal elections, with Marlene Mac Donald saying the most demeaning things about Pennelope Beckles-Robinson

  25. Well, Raffique did say he thinks she will squeak home with the win. Personally, I think there is a big chance she will lose a sixth straight election.
    She is ripe to pay for the bungling bunch this party has become. And I don’t think the UNC party is full of idiots Richard Zen O’Brien.
    They are partisan, of course. But not idiots. I feel she is in trouble too.

  26. I so confused by the UNC eh ……
    Dey taking the EBC to court tuh contest the election results, dey say the PNM is ah “minority government” …… but yet dey blaming Kamla for losing the election causing the UNC tuh become what, ah “majority opposition”?

    Ah muss confuse!

  27. I think Raffique is on the button with this one. They will self destruct. All ah dem.

  28. Yep. The decline and fall of the house of the rising sun.

  29. Nah, Raffique ain’t reading this one correct. This is THE PERFECT time for Kamla to call the elections. Why wait? She has a ‘built in’ excuse for why she lost the elections; ‘the EBC took it from the UNC!’ This is believed by the majority of people who matter, the UNC voters! Is Moonilal going to say the election challenge is a waste of time? Can he do that? Also, why should she wait and give Moonilal (the person she knew was gearing up to challenge her) time to organize? She just gave the PNM over 3 mths to plan for a general election and she would give another ‘opposition’ more time to do the same? Rodney Charles and Suruj not that dumb. Why would she wait to call the elections AFTER DEFEATS 6 AND 7 on December 7? Remember, suddenly her opponents can count…losing 4 straight elections was not an issue, but losing 5 straight is. Why would she help them with their newly found math skills?
    You have to give credit where credit is due and for once Team Kamla has demonstrated some political wisdom. She ‘smoked’ out Moonilal-I’m sure he was expecting the elections to be called next year- and left him in a position to attack the person he said was the best person to lead the country just 3 weeks ago. Kamla is going to survive AND destroy the UNC in the process. As a PNM, I have no problem with that. No tears from me, GO TEAM KAMLA!

  30. Good article Mr Shah. Mrs Persad-Bissessar has been totally reckless as the leader of the UNC. She as a leader has been a disaster if you look at it objectively and not through sycophantic eyes.
    Her lack of concern about the party is shown by her refusal to take responsibility for its electoral defeats and resign. Her refusal to resign has caused the party to now have a leadership contest that will cause unnecessary division in the party. But she has shown herself to be a very selfish person and I suppose it would be too much to expect any other behaviour from her. Many thanks.

  31. Raf,Yours is a rational analysis but I think you’re wrong. And the reason is in your first paragraph: Choosing a leader to take the United National Congress forward, backward, sideways, or keep it stagnated, IS THE BUDSINESS OF MEMBERS OF THE PARTY.” (my emphasis)
    This election will not be won or lost on the basis of rational analyses any more than the January 2010 election was won and lost on that basis. Fuad and Tim and Roodal and Larry can talk till they are yellow in the face and all over, when the votes are counted, Maha Kamla will emerge, as bas has pointed out, victorious.
    Does anybody know the UNC better than Bas?