Paray confident of contesting Mayaro again

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rushton Paray shows his receipt after filing his nomination papers at the UNC headquarters in Chaguanas on April 11. – Photo by Roger Jacob

MAYARO MP Rushton Paray says he is confident he will stand for re-election in next year’s general election and that UNC internal elections will take place in June as constitutionally due.

Paray spoke after submitting his general-election nomination package at the UNC’s headquarters in Chaguanas on April 11.

At a news conference in Couva on March 22, Paray called for the party to hold its elections. He said he was not afraid of becoming an outcast within the UNC for taking that stand.

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 expressed concern that the UNC could lose the next election to the PNM if it did not hold internal elections when they were due.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and several other UNC MPs and senators criticised him.

Persad-Bissessar even threatened him with expulsion from the UNC and accused him of being a “PNM infiltrator.”

On March 28, Paray said he was not afraid of being expelled from the UNC. Under the UNC’s constitution, the political leader does not have sole authority to expel any party member.

He also said his decision not to publicly continue speaking about the need for internal elections was not a capitulation to Persad-Bissessar, and he would continue to advocate for those elections to take place.

Rudranath Indarsingh and Dr Rashad Seecharan show their receipts after filing their nomination papers. – Photo by Roger Jacob

UNC MPs Dr Rai Ragbir, Anita Haynes-Alleyne and Rodney Charles supported Paray’s call for internal elections to be held when they are due.

The trio also expressed their support for Persad-Bissessar as the UNC’s leader.

While the UNC advertised that Persad-Bissessar would submit her nomination package in Chaguanas at 1 pm, she did not do so.

The media was told around that time that Persad-Bissessar’s package had already been submitted.

A party official said, “I was advised by the political leader that her package was submitted earlier this morning as required at party headquarters.”

There was no indication as to whether Persad-Bissessar submitted it in person or a representative did so on her behalf.

Paray arrived in Chaguanas around 1 pm to submit his package. UNC chairman Davendranath Tancoo welcomed him on his arrival.

Tancoo is amongst the UNC parliamentarians expressing support for Persad-Bissessar’s leadership and the view that party internal elections will be held when they are due.

Davendranath Tancoo and Michelle Benjamin arrive with their supporters to file their nomination papers on April 11. – Photo by Roger Jacob

Speaking afterwards with the media, Paray did not believe his call for internal elections will hurt his chances to stand for re-election in Mayaro for a second time.

“I expect to be treated fairly and robustly like every other candidate that is going to come before the screening committee. I think my chances are as good as everybody else’s.

“There is nothing wrong with calling for something that is right (internal elections). I don’t think I have asked for anything that is unconstitutional.”

Paray reiterated that Persad-Bissessar has committed to the internal elections in June being held.

“The elections will be held when they are constitutionally due. I have no reason to doubt that will not be the case.”

Asked whether he believed the submission of nomination packages signalled a focus of the UNC towards a general election and away from internal elections, Paray said, “I can’t read people’s minds. I know I did the right thing. I believe the party will do the right thing as well.”

Paray reiterated that if not selected to contest Mayaro, he will stay in the UNC and continue to work to improve it.

“I was in the business of serving (people) way before becoming a politician.”

A businessman by profession, he promised to continue serving the people of Mayaro in or out of electoral politics.

“Service to people is nothing new. This (politics) is just one way to serve the country.”

Paray was first elected MP in September 2015 and re-elected in August 2020.

He said the internal elections would ensure “that we have the strongest version of the UNC to take us to government.”

Paray said, “It’s not only about removing the PNM. It’s about how do we reset TT on the right track for prosperity, with all the global headwinds that are coming. I want to be able to have the best opportunity for my children, grandchildren, your children, to make sure that we have the best chance for success.

“I think asking for anything else other than that is wrong.”

Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial-Ramdial, Caroni East MP Dr Rishard Seecheran and Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh also submitted nomination packages on April 11.

Jayanti Lutchmedial shows her receipt after filing her nomination papers to represent San Fernando West. – Photo by Roger Jacob

They supported Persad-Bissessar’s leadership and the UNC’s focus being on the general election.

Lutchmedial-Ramdial submitted nominations for San Fernando West and Naparima.

Charles, the incumbent Naparima MP, announced last year he will not stand for re-election in 2025.

Lutchmedial-Ramdial said she is prepared to serve the UNC regardless of whether or not she is chosen as a candidate.

“All of the persons coming here today, we have one very core, united cause and that is to remove this government from office.”

Lutchmedial-Ramdial believed the UNC’s general election preparations are going well.

She said Persad-Bissessar has advanced policies the UNC would implement should it be re-elected to office next year, while the PNM does not.

Asked whether it is best to shelve UNC internal elections in favour of general-election preparations, Lutchmedial-Ramdial said, “There are factors that could affect an internal election which are out of our control.”

She identified the announcement of a general election date as an example.

Anil Roberts poses for the camera alongside councillor Amrit Sooknanan on April 11. Roberts filed his nomination paper to represent the St Joseph constituency in the next general election. – Photo by Roger Jacob

She recalled the former UNC-led People’s Partnership coalition government proposed setting fixed election dates.

“Parties need to plan their internal things (elections). But a lot of it can happen and be dependent on what the Prime Minister decides for a general election.”

Lutchmedial-Ramdial was confident the UNC national executive will make the right decision on holding internal elections when the time is right.

Seecheran shared her view.

Indarsingh believed the UNC was right to prioritise general-election preparations over internal elections, as the PM has left people to wonder when he will call the election.