Mark tells party members: Don’t bully UNC, focus on common enemy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Senator Wade Mark – Lincoln Holder

OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark on Sunday joined the growing number of UNC parliamentarians who are publicly condemning Mayaro MP Rushton Paray’s call for internal elections to be held in June and Paray’s warning that failure to hold those elections will cause the party to lose next year’s general election.

Mark took that action against Paray when he addressed a news conference at the UNC’s headquarters in Chaguanas. Mark and Paray are chairman and vice-chairman respectively of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Enterprises Committee (PAEC).

The PAEC and the Public Accounts Committee are the only parliamentary committees which are chaired by opposition parliamentarians.

At a news conference in Couva on Friday, Paray said, “Today we are all making this public demand because we have a grave concern that there is an attempt from the executive to devalue the UNC’s internal election by suggesting it is not necessary or not even needed.”

The party is constitutionally due to hold elections for all posts on its national executive (Natex) in June, with the exception of political leader.

The election for that post is due next year. Paray believes talk of a general election is simply a ruse intended to suppress the voice of the UNC’s membership. He said he was not afraid about becoming an outcast within the UNC for taking that stand. General elections in TT are due near the end of 2025.

At a news conference at the Opposition Leader’s office in Port of Spain on March 22, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar dismissed Paray’s call.

“We follow the party’s constitution and anyone who wants to jump the gun will wait their turn. Now is not the time for that. The focus, we must stay laser-focused, on doing all that we can to try and rescue the people of this country.”

Persad-Bissessar did not call Paray by name when she made her statements. “So good luck to all the wannabes. Sometimes they are. What it is, their ambitions, outweigh their talents. I wish them good luck.”

Before she won the post of political leader from party founder Basdeo Panday in the UNC’s internal elections on January 24, 2010, Persad-Bissessar demanded party elections be held when they were constitutionally due. She also then expressed concerns about the UNC not being strong enough to defeat the PNM in a general election if its internal political dynamics were out of alignment.

On Sunday, Mark said, “The UNC is bigger than any individual.” He did not mention Paray by name. Mark also said the UNC was not a party for rich or elitist people.

“It is a party of the working man and woman in TT.” He dismissed any notion of the UNC being an undemocratic organization. “The UNC stands on very strong, resilient, and democratic principles.”

Mark reiterated the party line that internal elections will be held when they are constitutionally due and the UNC’s sole focus at the time was preparation for the next general election.

“We have one party, one vision, one leader, and we have one common enemy. We must not allow anyone to distract us.”

He reiterated the UNC had set a deadline of April 11 for the submission of the names of nominees to be considered as general election candidates.

Mark had a warning to any UNC members or supporters who advocated the same position as Paray did. “Don’t bully the (UNC national) executive. Don’t bully the party.”

On Sunday, Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin also supported Persad-Bissessar. In a statement, she said, “I proudly endorse and support Mrs. Persad-Bissessar as the leader of the UNC and the future Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.”

The UNC has 19 MPs in the House of Representatives. Persad-Bissessar and Paray are two of them. Out of the remaining 17, more than half of them have openly supported Persad-Bissessar and rejected Paray’s position.

Those supporting Persad Bissessar so far are MPs Dr. Roodal Moonilal, Davendranath Tancoo, Khadijah Ameen, Barry Padarath, Saddam Hosein, Rudranath Indarsingh, Ravi Ratiram, Dr. Rishard Seecharan, Dr. Lackram Bodoe, and Benjamin.