Charles threatens to expose UNC campaign secrets

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Mayaro MP Rushton Paray, left, and Naparima MP Rodney Charles at the San Fernando Yacht Club for a meeting organised by the UNC’s San Fernando West Constituency Group on April 15. – FILE PHOTO

NAPARIMA MP Rodney Charles has threatened to publicly expose UNC political secrets he has kept silent about for the last eight years if his loyalty to UNC is challenged because he supports a call for the party to hold internal elections.

Charles claimed Opposition Leader and UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has intimate knowledge of the secrets he referred to.

He made these statements when he addressed a community meeting in Woodland on May 19.

Also addressing the meeting were his fellow UNC MPs Rushton Paray, Dinesh Rambally and Anita Haynes-Alleyne, who have also called for the party to hold internal elections ahead of next year’s general election to give it the best chance of winning.

Charles said he and former UNC MP Fazal Karim (deceased) were members of the UNC’s campaign team in 2000, the only time the party defeated the PNM in a general election without forming a coalition with any other party.

That campaign’s slogan, Performance beats Ole Talk, was coined by Charles and Karim together with US political strategist James Carville.

Charles was the UNC’s campaign manager for the September 7, 2015, general election when the party was in government, leading the then People’s Partnership (PP) coalition.

“Remember the 2015 election and ‘the spin the wheel’ nonsense’? Well, today I levelling with you and speaking the truth after eight years of keeping silent.”

Before the 2015 general election, Charles appeared in different parts of the country with “Rowley’s wheel of misfortune,” which he spun and made claims about the Prime Minister.

Charles explained the reasons why he had to break his silence now.

“I do so because it is unfortunate that bloggers associated with the UNC, in their desire to support the status quo, they are busy spreading PNM propaganda (about me). There are people on our side who will lick us up in order to ensure that they will remain in power.”

In 2000, he continued, then UNC leader Basdeo Panday (deceased) never interfered in the work he, Carville, Karim did to manage the party’s general election campaign.

Charles said this was not the case in 2015, as the PP sought to be re-elected for a second term. He claimed the election campaign was at one stage “micro-managed by the then prime minister (Persad-Bissessar).”

Charles said, “No decision in the campaign was taken without her knowledge and her approval.”

The campaign, he continued, became “pure hell’ for him as campaign manager, with the UNC bringing in consultants from Canada, England, Barbados and the US to advise it. Charles said he often had to navigate between the egos and conflicts of the different consultants to do his job.

He reminded the audience about the UNC’s No Rowley campaign in 2015, which personally attacked then-opposition leader Dr Rowley (now Prime Minister) to discredit him and win voters’ support for the PP.

Charles said, “That entire campaign was the brainchild of a Canadian consultant and there are e-mails that I have to prove it, one of which was sent to 30 persons. I have the proof.”

He recalled being shown information that the No Rowley campaign would work.

“In a campaign, one operates on trust with one’s colleagues and information provided by professionals. I had to trust (them).

That ‘No Rowley campaign had the full support of the then prime minister.”

He added that he received orders directly from the UNC’s leadership to make the campaign work, and got help from a sitting UNC MP.

Despite his personal reservations that the campaign would fail, Charles said he laboured on.

“The political leader and all of the campaign were aware of the facts.”

Charles recalled being blamed for the PP’s loss in 2015.

“I stood up for the party, refusing to divulge details. I getting licks and they saying, I loss the election for the UNC. But I know it was foreigners who brought that campaign and I have the proof. Anybody want to challenge me, I have the data. I had to take that licks but I’m a loyal UNC.”

Charles was saddened that none of his UNC colleagues had defended him.

“You don’t think they could defend me in all of that licks and speak the truth?”That is why we need a new breed of honest politicians. Men who will say yea if it is yea and nay if it is nay and he could walk away knowing that he made a promise to me.

“I took the blows even though those in the know were fully aware of the facts but remained silent. As a loyal party member, I kept my peace for eight years.”

Now, Charles continued, party members are accusing him of “bringing out UNC business.”

In these circumstances, Charles said he had to defend himself.

“If I don’t do that, I will end up as a national bobolee. If challenged, I will release e-mails and other correspondence to back up today what I am saying on this matter.”If they keep quiet, I keep quiet too, because it is my party and I don’t want my party to look bad.”

But he warned, “If you want to make me a bobolee and expect me to keep quiet as I did for eight years – dem days done.”

The British firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) was alleged to have been engaged by the UNC in the Do So general election campaign in 2010, which saw the PP win 29-12.

Claims that CA unlawfully electronically accessed citizens’ personal data to assist in that campaign victory have never been confirmed or denied. The firm was shut down in May 2018.

Charles lamented the UNC has not learnt anything from its defeats in the 2015 and 2020 general elections, when it employed what he described as a “business-as-usual approach.”

Charles was concerned that history would repeat itself next year.

“We going in 2025 to get more licks?”

He was concerned the UNC does not seem to have the ability now to attract people of the calibre of Mickela Panday, Prakash Ramadhar and Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie.

Paray: No room for dictatorship in UNC

Paray said there must be no dictatorship in the UNC if the party is to defeat the PNM in next year’s general election.

“We are members of the UNC and we have a right to cast a vote. When you stifle that ability to give the members the right to decide the direction that the party must take, that is dictatorship, and I will not stand for that.”

Paray promised to lead a slate of candidates in the June 15 elections that will bring fundamental change to the party.

He said the operations of the UNC as a party must reflect what it will do should it be elected to government next year.

Paray recalled that Persad-Bissessar as prime minister once advocated fixed election dates and fixed terms of office for certain public officials.

“No political leader should turn into a dictator.”

Paray said he would strongly advocate for fixed terms of office for the political leader and other party executives and fixed election dates in the UNC.

“No political leader should turn into a dictator staying in any office for 30 years.”

Paray claimed some UNC members have been attacking Rambally, Haynes-Alleyne, Charles, Ragbir and himself because they want no change in the party.

“We have served that team an ‘eviction notice’ and they don’t want it.”

Rambally said Haynes-Alleyne and Charles were exemplars to women and senior citizens respectively.

He asked why some UNC members would want to attack them.

After saying he would identify Haynes-Alleyne as a role model to any woman, Rambally asked, “You want me to start calling names who not to say?”

Rambally said Charles “has given his blood to the UNC.”

He called on UNC members to use June 15 to say “whether you want change or you don’t want change.”

Haynes-Alleyne said UNC members must not be swayed by anyone contesting the election who says they support Persad-Bissessar.

She reminded her audience that the post of political leader is the only national executive post not being contested in June.

“The UNC cannot be controlled by a small group of people. The UNC is not one person. it is not a handful of persons. It is 100,000 people across Trinidad and Tobago.”