Griffith unfazed by UNC’s bid for St Joseph

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Transformation Alliance (NTA) leader Gary Griffith –

NATIONAL Transformation Alliance (NTA) political leader Gary Griffith says he is not concerned by Opposition Senator Anil Roberts offering himself to be selected as the UNC’s candidate for the key marginal constituency of St Joseph.

Roberts submitted a nomination package for the constituency at UNC headquarters in Chaguanas on April 11.

Recently, the NTA chose Griffith to be its St Joseph candidate.

Griffith was also unfazed by Roberts sidestepping questions from the media about whether the UNC and NTA still have an alliance to contest next year’s general election.

In a WhatsApp response to comments Roberts made after he submitted his nomination package, Griffith said, “That is UNC’s business. I would be very out of place to be making any comment pertaining to the UNC selecting possibly 41 candidates (for the general election). That is their right. They are a political party, same as us.”

Griffith has publicly said the NTA is seeking candidates for all 41 constituencies.

“That was the intention with the local government election (last August) until there was some degree of communication, dialogue and alliance (between UNC and NTA) that ensured 60,000 more votes than the PNM.”

Griffith said until the NTA and UNC decide whether or not to form an alliance, they each must do what they must to separately prepare for the election.

“Very soon, the NTA will be setting up our main office in St Joseph. We will be there.”

Referring to last year’s local government election campaign, Griffith said the facts showed no politician was on the ground more than he was.

“I walked for several hours a day, every single day for two months. Not just with the NTA candidates, but with UNC candidates in San Fernando and Sangre Grande.”

Griffith said those actions were key in bringing out third-party, floating voters who do not support the PNM or the UNC to vote for UNC local government candidates.

“So when it comes to high visibility, walking the walk and making yourself accessible and visible that would be myself.”

Griffith promised to start his ground campaign for the election although it is a year away.

He said no political party selects its general election candidates a year before that election.

“Anyone who is announced by any political party as a candidate (a year before the election), that really and truly is a constituency caretaker until nomination day.”

When a general election date is announced, a nomination day is also announced. The latter is the final day for all candidates wishing to contest the election to file the required documents.

Griffith said, “Lots of things can take place between now and nomination day.”

He added that only when the Prime Minister officially announces the election date do parties formally select their candidates.

Roberts: Licks for PNM in St Joseph

Roberts predicted that whoever the PNM selects to challenge him in St Joseph will get “a finger-licking good cut-tail from the UNC team.”

Asked if the UNC would not field a candidate in St Joseph and allow Griffith to contest the seat for the NTA, Roberts said, “Keith Rowley is the worst prime minister in the history of TT. The PNM has decimated the economy. There are no jobs. The crime rate has skyrocketed where no one feels safe.”

After observing a reporter who had a red cellphone, Roberts told the reporter, “By the time the election comes, I will give you a yellow case. God bless. The PNM is evil. Rowley is evil.”

He predicted the UNC will win St Joseph and five other marginal seats.

Opposition Senator Anil Roberts –

Asked again if the UNC would allow Griffith to contest St Joseph, Roberts replied, “As a member of the UNC, I have just put in nominations to screen for the UNC (for St Joseph).”

He said other UNC members could also offer themselves to become the party’s St Joseph candidate, adding, “I am going to give my best shot to win the nod for Team UNC.”

Roberts claimed the UNC has been working in St Joseph for the last 25 months.

“They want to see the back of the PNM.”

He claimed Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh may not stand for re-election as St Joseph MP.

Newsday understands that Deyalsingh, who was first elected St Joseph MP on November 5, 2013, intends to stand for re-election.

Asked if the UNC still has an alliance with the NTA for the general election, Roberts evaded the question.

“The UNC team on the ground in St Joseph consists of 162 people. We walked in the last six weeks, at least three hours every week.”

Roberts said the UNC is planning a social media campaign, manifesto and sports activities for St Joseph.

“The criminal element is taking over TT. This yellow, Team UNC, will save St Joseph.”

Roberts was asked if Griffith was one of the 162 people he referred to as part of his team.

After changing that number from 162 to 168, Roberts said they “were all members of the UNC and they work hard and continue to work hard.”

He predicted the UNC will get over 12,000 votes to win St Joseph.

Roberts was asked if he would support Griffith as the St Joseph candidate.

“Any UNC member. Anybody who goes for screening in the UNC, of which I am a team (member), I support.”

Roberts said he would support any other UNC member as the party’s candidate if he is not chosen.

In a poll issued on March 22, the North American Teachers Association (Nacta) said Griffith had a good chance of winning St Joseph.

Nacta viewed Roberts’ chances of winning the seat for the UNC as dim.

This, according to Nacta, was based on poll respondents’ belief that Roberts only has support from traditional UNC supporters in the constituency and his loud outbursts and personal attacks will not help the UNC gain the support of floating voters.

Also submitting a nomination package was Opposition Senator Damian Lyder.

He is seeking to contest the Cumuto/Manzanilla constituency currently represented by MP Dr Rai Ragbir, who supported Mayaro MP Rushton Paray’s call for UNC internal elections, scheduled for June.

Lyder is among the UNC parliamentarians who criticised Paray’s call and supported party leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s view that the UNC’s priority is preparing for the general election.