Natex voter turnout in Diego Martin ‘encouraging’ for UNC

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Senator Damian Lyder, left, and Eli Zakour, who is contesting the post of North West Regional Representative, spoke to the Newsday after casting their votes in the UNC internal elections, on June 15, at the Diego Martin Central Community Centre. –

WHILE United National Congress (UNC) Senator Wade Mark hoped and predicted a victory for the incumbent Star Team at the party’s national executive (natex) election on June 15, he extended an olive branch to their opponents, saying there were common goals the party needed to achieve.

Mark spoke with Newsday outside the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) hall on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, where he visited before and after casting his vote in Aranguez, near his St Joseph home.

He said he was the Star Team’s mobiliser for the election, encouraging registered voters to exercise their rights.

“We have to always bear in mind, it is one family – it is the UNC family,” he said, after one of the most heated internal elections campaigns in the party’s history witnessed persistent attacks from both sides, the Star Team and the United Patriots, accusing the other of conspiring to lose the next general elections.

“Yes, we have contests (and) competition; that is part of the democratic spirit, and we welcome that,” Mark said.

“We feel confident that at the end of the day, the Star slate will emerge victorious, and we feel at the end of that process, we have to really bring all (our supporters) together to work toward the common objective.

“When the results are finally announced and the Star slate are announced victoriously as the preferred slate for the UNC membership, we have the task of really pulling the party together and working towards healing,” he said, adding that the teams must work together to oppose the PNM and “the clear policies that are anti-people and anti-working class and labour…

“So that whenever they call the general elections, we are going to have a united, solidified front to remove (the regime).”

The SWWTU hall was the polling venue for Laventille East/Morvant, Laventille West, Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West, and Port of Spain South, where two stations were set up for the four constituencies, traditionally PNM strongholds, with just a couple hundred registered UNC members.

About 90 UNC members had cast their ballots across the four constituencies when Newsday spoke with Mark at around 1.30 pm.

“Hopefully, it will increase as we get closer to 6 pm,” he said. “But normally what we find is that in these constituencies, like Port of Spain, the membership is not that spectacular – just under 200.

He said a 50 per cent turnout would be “reasonable in the scheme of things.”

Newsday also spoke with fellow UNC Senator Damian Lyder, who visited the Port of Spain station after casting his ballot at the Diego Martin Central Community Centre, Diamond Vale, where the turnout was more encouraging for the UNC.

Diego Martin Central Community Centre, Diamond Vale was the polling venue for Diego Martin Central, Diego Martin North East, and Diego Martin West, with one polling station.

“Like Senator Mark, I went ahead and made my vote and…I, too, support all 17 members of the Star Team,” Lyder said.

“What I can say is that from my time spent in Diego Martin this morning (the process) was very smooth, there were no hiccups and we didn’t see any sort of problems within the system. So no complaints from either slate.”

As of 1.30 pm, 58 votes had been cast in Diego Martin North East, 65 in Diego Martin West and 16 in Diego Martin Central, putting them well on course to collectively exceed the previous national executive election turnout, hours before the 6 pm close of polls.

“Similar to Port of Spain, the membership would be a lot less (in Diego Martin) than the rest of other areas of the country.

“But what’s very encouraging is that especially in Diego Marth North East and Diego Martin West, we saw quite a high turnout versus the last (natex election).

“What’s also interesting is that the leadership post is not being contested, so it means the party is alive and kicking.

“So it’s a good sign for the UNC, going into next year’s general election, if it doesn’t come sooner.

“It may come sooner,” he added, “given the state of the economy and the unhappy feeling of people today under this PNM government but whenever the PNM brings the election…the UNC is the strongest party in this country today and we’re ready for the PNM. We’re ready to take the government.

“We continue to support Kamla Persad-Bissessar, we continue to support the UNC, and more than anything else, we support our country and bringing it back to some form of normalcy given the state this country is in today.”

Thirty-five candidates contested 17 natex posts available. Robert Amar was the lone independent candidate, vying for the deputy leader’s position.