Mohit, Mark: UNC elections will be free, fair

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Wade Mark –

CHAGUANAS East MP Vandana Mohit and Opposition Senator Wade Mark have expressed confidence that the June 15 UNC internal elections will be free and fair.

They made those statements at a news conference at the party’s headquarters in Chaguanas on May 19.

Mohit reiterated statements made by UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other UNC members that the party’s internal elections would be called when they were constitutionally due.

She said next month’s elections were evidence of this.

Mohit added that the party follows its constitution and had a rich democratic process.

Mark agreed with her.

He said all bonafide UNC members would be able to participate in next month’s elections.

Mark also acknowledged that the party was also preparing for local government by-elections in Lengua/Indian Walk and Quinam/Morne Diablo on June 17, two days after the UNC’s internal elections.

He said nominations for candidates for the by-elections have closed and screening of nominees is taking place.

Mark was confident the UNC would pick the best possible candidates for the by-elections.

A North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll issued on May 12 indicated that UNC supporters had concerns about the fairness of the party’s internal elections and how it could impact the party’s success in next year’s general election.

In its poll, NACTA recalled the public calls issued by five UNC MPs- Rushton Paray, Dinesh Rambally, Anita Haynes Alleyne, Rodney Charles and Dr Rai Ragbir- for internal elections scheduled for next month to be held when they are constitutionally due.

The group also recalled that these MPs were publicly reprimanded by Persad-Bissessar and other party members for making their call.

The five MPs were criticised for distracting the UNC’s attention away from its general-election preparations.

With the exception of the political leader’s post, all other posts on the UNC’s national executive (Natex) are up for grabs.

The NACTA poll was based on a sample of 432 respondents representing the demographics of the population and the party.

NACTA said, “A majority (57 per cent) of supporters of the UNC feel Kamla (Persad-Bissessar) will hold timely party election.”

But within this group, NACTA continued, “81 per cent express concerns about whether it will be free and fair.”

NACTA said these supporters believe “previous elections were not above remonstration and did not meet the characteristics of intra-party democracy.”

Former UNC parliamentarians Vasant Bharath, Dr Fuad Khan, Ramona Ramdial and Devant Maharaj have complained of numerous voter irregularities in previous elections, which appeared to give an unfair advantage to Persad-Bissessar and/or any slate of candidates she supports.

Khan has claimed that Persad-Bissessar’s opponents are not being given proper voter lists and the UNC MP and councillor offices are being used by Persad-Bissessar’s supporters to campaign for members of slates endorsed by her.

NACTA said, “The public feels that queries and issues on membership and eligible voters and allegations of skullduggeries in previous elections must be addressed.”

The group added that based on the findings of this poll and previous surveys conducted in January, last October and August, “if the UNC does not undergo change, the PNM is on course to a third successive victory in next year’s general elections.”