Gary awaits reply from Kamla on alliance

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Gary Griffith – Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

FIVE days after the end of the UNC’s internal elections, National Transformation Alliance (NTA) political leader Gary Griffith says he is still waiting for a response from UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on whether or not the two political parties have an alliance for next year’s general election.

After she voted at the Debe Secondary School on June 15, Persad-Bissessar said she would deal with “external people” after the UNC’s internal elections were over.

The comment referred to a letter Griffith sent her on June 12. In it, he asked her to clarify whether or not the NTA and UNC will form an alliance to challenge the PNM in the general election.

Griffith also asked Persad-Bissessar to respond to comments reportedly made against him by UNC deputy leader Jearlean John.

At one of the Star slate meetings during the elections, Persad-Bissessar told Griffith to leave John alone.

At another Star slate meeting, John reportedly said the UNC was strong enough to win any election on its own.

The Star slate which was endorsed by Persad-Bissessar, defeated the United Patriots slate 213,651 to 62,186 votes.

In February, Griffith and Persad-Bissessar fell out over statements she made at a UNC public meeting about other parties taking advantage of the UNC’s resources but contributing nothing in return.

In a WhatsApp comment to Newsday on June 20, Griffith acknowledged Persad-Bissessar’s recent comments about dialogue between the NTA and UNC continuing after the UNC internal elections and the June17 local government by-elections in Lengua/Indian Walk and Quinam/Morne Diablo.

“So we wait to see what happens.”

He recalled that before last August’s local government elections, he and Persad-Bissessar were in daily contact.

The national executive of the NTA and of the UNC had been unanimous that a strategic alliance would be successful for the local government elections, he said.

He repeated those elections saw the UNC-NTA coalition get 60,000 more votes than the PNM.

“What would have happened is that many NTA supporters who were previous COP (Congress of the People) supporters, voted for the 110 UNC candidates, especially in San Fernando and Sangre Grande and along the (East-West) Corridor, where we have the majority of our support.”

Griffith said this support was reciprocated by UNC voters “in the 31 hardest PNM seats voting for the NTA candidates (contesting those seats).”

He added that only John was opposed to the NTA-UNC local government alliance.

But Griffith said shortly after the local government elections, which ended in a seven-seven tie between the PNM and UNC, Persad-Bissessar gave a commitment that the NTA-UNC alliance would continue “and move on into the general election.”

In January, Griffith continued, NTA and UNC conversations came to a virtual halt.

After that, he said was the incident in February where Persad-Bissessar attacked the NTA at a UNC public meeting, “totally getting memory loss, asking what we bring to the table.”

Griffith added that the results of last year’s local government elections and this month’s local government by-elections showed the political value of the NTA.

On the latter, he said the absence of the NTA from the by-elections was particularly clear in the Lengua/Indian Walk by-election, where the PNM defeated the UNC 1,986 to 1,394 votes.

Griffith said, “That was the same seat that many NTA voters who were previous threshold PNM voters came across and voted for the UNC candidate without the NTA being there (last August in the local government elections when there was an NTA-UNC coalition).

At the end of the August 2023 local government elections, no winner was declared in the Lengua/ Indian Walk district.

The UNC filed a petition calling for a rejected special ballot it claimed was in its candidate’s favour to be counted and the district given to the party.

In March, the Court of Appeal dismissed the petition, holding that election rules allowed the rejection of the special ballot.

Griffith said, “The only variance of that local government election with (Lengua/) Indian Walk and the by-election was the non-involvement of the NTA and its supporters. Some of them, it seems, had gone back to the PNM because there was not a third choice.”