Kamla: No room for extremism in UNC

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar – File photo

OPPOSITION Leader and UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says there is no room for intolerance and extremism in the party.

Persad-Bissessar made this comment on April 12 as she condemned Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally for saying the UNC would not win the next general election while she remains party leader.

Rambally made his statement at a news conference on the same day.

In a subsequent statement issued by the UNC, Persad-Bissessar said, “There is no room for intolerance and extremism of any type in the UNC and our country.

“As leader, I represent all people equally and fairly. I cannot and will not be controlled by any individual or group to promote any singular agenda at the expense of other sections of society.”

She added, “These public rants by a few only help this oppressive government.”

Persad-Bissessar said she bears no malice to people who oppose her.

“While there will always be differences in any society, I believe we must love and respect all our people equally.

“As leader of the UNC, I will show everyone tolerance, love empathy and compassion without fear or favour. That is my choice. That is how I have lived my life and always will.”

Persad-Bissessar said the UNC is poised to defeat the PNM in the next general election and must stay focused, admitting the party has had some internal problems.

“Precautions were taken with the sharing of information internally after three UNC MPs voted against the UNC nominee Israel Khan, SC, in the vote for the election of the president (in January 2023).”

The UNC has 25 parliamentarians (six senators and 19 MPs).

Khan was the UNC’s nominee for president at that time. Three of the UNC’s parliamentarians did not vote for him. Their identities were never been revealed. The President is elected by secret ballot by members of both Houses of Parliament.

Persad-Bissessar said, “Those precautions were made to protect the party so some members and MPs will not be aware of all the activities occurring within the organisation.”

Coming to Persad-Bissessar’s defence were Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, Princes Town MP Barry Padarath and Opposition Senator Jearlean John. Moonilal and John are UNC deputy leaders.

Moonilal said the MPs and membership of his constituency support Persad-Bissessar.

He added that Persad-Bissessar “is democratically elected and represents the will of the mass membership.”

Moonilal said the UNC is on the cusp of a general election victory in 2025 and nothing must distract it from that objective.

“We will not be distracted by agents of the PNM in our quest to remove the Rowley administration. All I can opine further is the age-old political truism that ‘those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first makepagal.”

Pagal is the Hindi word for crazy.

John said, “The UNC was shaped by the blood, sweat and tears of our loyal, dedicated and beloved supporters. For them there is no mountain, the UNC, led by the fearless honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar will not climb.

Padarath said, “The MP (Rambally) let the cat out of the bag, I indicated last week that members were engaging in a passive-aggressive approach when they very well know that they have been engaged in a charade for the past few years, as they undermined the leader and the party for their own personal interest.”

He said Persad-Bissessar has a mandate to lead the UNC until 2025 and is positioning it to win the general election.

“I, together with many others, believe a united party can and will win with Mrs Persad-Bissessar’s leadership.”

Anti-Kamla voices

UNC MPs Rushton Paray and Dr Rai Ragbir supported Rambally’s statement.

Paray was criticised by Persad-Bissessar for calling last month for UNC internal elections to take place as scheduled in June.

Persad-Bissessar called him a “PNM infiltrator” and threatened to expel him from the UNC.

Ragbir said, “MP Rambally’s statements today reflect what many members of the party are already feeling and in some instances saying.”

Former UNC MPs Ramona Ramdial, Devant Maharaj and Dr Fuad Khan supported Rambally.

Ramdial said, “I am saddened by the fact that no lessons were learnt having lost the 2020 general election. It seems that under the leadership of Kamla Persad-Bissessar, it’s an illiberal democracy.”

Maharaj said, “The sham that is the institution of the UNC is epitomised by the failure of the political leader to file her nomination papers at the party headquarters following a media release that attempted to make an insignificant event into another opportunity to praise the leader.”

The UNC advertised on April 10 that Persad-Bissessar would file her nomination package at the party’s headquarters in Chaguanas that day.

She never did, and party officials subsequently said her package was submitted earlier in the day.

They did not say whether she did it in person or an agent did it on her behalf.

Maharaj said Rambally’s statement must be accepted by UNC supporters as an awakening and they must “liberate themselves from the cult of personality that enslaves them to Persad-Bissessar’s whims.”

He predicted, “The UNC’s downfall is imminent, with the continued leadership of Kamla.”

While Khan supported Rambally’s views, he felt Rambally needed to resign from the UNC if he felt this way.

“He cannot sit in a seat under a leader and utter such rubbish without subjecting himself to the general electorate of Chaguanas West.”

Khan urged Rambally, “Test the waters. Resign and fight the seat under a different emblem.”