Padarath: ‘Dissidents creating mischief in UNC’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition MP Barry Padarath – File Photo

THE United National Congress (UNC) is admitting there are “dissidents” in the party who are set on fracturing the party and are also behind a “fake” statement purportedly from the Sangre Grande Constituency executive calling for its leader to step down.

The statement is accusing Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar of “sowing discord and division” within the party and calling for new leadership to emerge.

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath said the unsigned statement on the official constituency executive letterhead is “fake” and dissidents are creating political mischief.

Padarath also shared with Newsday what he said was a disclaimer from the chairman of the constituency. The typewritten, unsigned two-sentence letter attributed the source as Kerwin Charles, chairman. It was not affixed to the official constituency letterhead as the purported fake letter was.

Charles’ statement read, “To whom it may concern. We, the members of the Toco/Sangre Grande Constituency executive of the United National Congress, support the political leader Ms Kamla Persad-Bissessar 100 per cent and we are making it abundantly clear that we have nothing to do with that press release that is now circulating in the public domain. Respectfully, Kerwin Charles Chairman.”

“What is happening is that you are seeing mischief afoot by one or two dissident individuals but the party is very much united behind Mrs Persad-Bissessar,” Padarath told the Newsday on Tuesday.

The first letter said the rank and file members of the Grande executive took umbrage to criticisms Persad-Bissessar levelled at her predecessor and late founder Basdeo Panday about treating UNC supporters as “sheep”.

Indicative of another fissure, her comments have also sparked a public outcry from current Mayaro MP Rushton Paray, who stepped out of his comfort zone to defend Panday, insisting on preserving his legacy.

“We owe a lot to Mr Panday. We must uphold his memory by standing up to those who would belittle and mock his life’s work,” Paray said.

“It is unfortunate there are persons who are seeking political mileage or are looking for selfish opportunities by themselves, to use a comment that was taken completely out of context,” Padarath said.

He said Persad-Bissessar spoke about the running of the UNC under Panday’s tenure at a particular time.

Without identifying Paray by name, he said, “It is strange to see one MP is speaking out, but that MP was also at the time when Mr Panday was political leader of the UNC, was in the bosom of the PNM. At a time when Mr Panday was being persecuted by the PNM, both inside and outside of the courthouse.”

He said the national executive, of which he is a member, is very united behind their leader.

“I think the party is in a good space. For those who are looking for political opportunity for themselves, there is a situation of manipulating things out of context.”

This is the latest controversy the UNC seems to be mired in, arising out of statements the Opposition Leader made on a Couva platform on Monday night.

Her comments that smaller parties wishing to ally with the UNC must pull their weight and bring something more than a social media presence to the table has offended one of the party’s political partners and leader of the National Transformation (NTA) Gary Griffith, causing a rift between the two partners.

Padarath said that statement was also taken out of context as Persad-Bissessar was merely laying down ground rules for what each partner should bring to the coalition.

He said she has always been a great unifier and was simply stating that the partners should respect the values and principles of the other parties as they do there.

“I think it is being blown out of proportion.”

In the aftermath of the statement, Griffith has accused Persad-Bissessar of blatant disrespect. He also accused deputy political leader Jearlean John of influencing her leader, pointing out she was the only person who felt the UNC could win an election on its own.

John, in response, said, “I don’t have time with that kind of foolishness. I have no response to that fella and all that kind of confusion. I have been out there a long time, doing the work and thank God, the UNC is kind of progressing. I am not feuding with anybody. He just want to spoil my good Tobago name.”

Former UNC minister and coalition partner in the last local election, Jack Warner does not believe the fracture is so wide that it cannot be healed.

He suggested dialogue and his willingness to participate in mending the fracture.

Former UNC minister and now political commentator Ralph Maraj said this is a very sensitive issue.

“It is what I call differences of opinion, and the little turbulence the attempt at unity seems to be undergoing, I think they will overcome.

“They can overcome and they should overcome because it is not a big, yawning gap. The country needs a strong challenger to the present government.”