Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah. –
MOVEMENT for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah said the Opposition UNC has been left publicly embarrassed, and its political weakness exposed after three of its members did not support the UNC’s presidential nominee in the Electoral College meeting at the Red House on January 20, to elect a successor to President Paula-Mae Weekes who will demit office on March 20.
Abdulah said what transpired in the Electoral College last week, reinforces the MSJ’s view that neither the PNM nor the UNC are capable of providing good governance to TT.
No one in the UNC has owned up as any of the three members who did not vote along with their other 22 parliamentary colleagues in support of Khan.
The Electoral College on Friday voted 48-22 in favour of former Senate president Christine Kangaloo being president-elect to serve as TT’s seventh president.
The college comprises all members of the House of Representatives and Senate, including the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.
The vote for Kanglaoo comprised 39 government members (including Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George and Senate President Nigel De Freitas) and nine independent senators.
The vote from the Opposition in support of Khan was 22, three short of the UNC’s full parliamentary membership in the House and Senate.
In a virtual news conference on Sunday, Abdulah said, “Quite clearly, the UNC has more than egg on its face (after the Electoral College vote).”
He recalled, “Their spokespersons were repeatedly calling on PNM MPs and Independent Senators to reject the nomination of Christine Kangaloo and to vote for Israel Khan.”
But Abdulah said, “Lo and behold, some of their (UNC) own persons maybe used their conscience and didn’t vote for either of the candidates (Kangaloo and Khan).”
He added it was academic whether the three UNC members did not vote for either Kangaloo or Khan, voted for Kangaloo or did something else which caused their ballots to be spoilt.
“Any way you take it, three UNC persons did not support their nominee. That is an indication of the weakness of the UNC. Certainly we will be speaking to that as we go forward.”
Abdulah said the events in the Electoral College also show “that both the UNC and the PNM cannot move this country forward, because neither of them are committed to significant constitutional reform.”
He reiterated the MSJ’s view that this was because “they (PNM,UNC) want to keep the relations of economic and political power the same.”
While the MSJ has nothing personal against Kangaloo and Khan, Abdulah said there is a public perception that neither of them is suited to be President.
In Kangaloo’s case, he said even if she acts in accordance with her oath of office as President, her past political affiliation with the PNM could make her perceived to be biased in favour of the Government.
Abdulah added that Khan’s suitability as President is equally questionable as he has made very controversial statements in public.
At a news conference after the vote, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was unfazed by the fact that three of her members did not support Khan.
“This party (UNC) we operate as a democracy, and in the interest of democracy we don’t whip the whip when people exercise their democratic right and I see it as an exercise in democracy.”
She said those members “will have their own consciences to take care of and make peace with God.”
On Saturday, UNC chairman Davendranath Tancoo said, “I have no idea who the persons are whose votes were declared spoilt ballots, or which party they belonged to. The ballots have no names.”
Tancoo scrutinised the votes of Kangaloo and Khan on behalf of the Opposition.
He told Newsday, “If you find out (who the three spoilt ballots belong to) please let me know.”
Tancoo recalled that only recently people knew that the Prime Minister voted against the PNM’s presidential nominee Justice Anthony Lucky in 1997 in favour of then Tobago East MP Arthur NR Robinson after Rowley made it public.
“Until the persons stand up and admit, we would only be guessing and I don’t like guessing,” Tancoo said.