Paray still confident UNC internal elections will be held

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rushton Paray –

MAYARO MP Rushton Paray will join UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and several of his parliamentary colleagues at the party’s headquarters in Chaguanas on Thursday from 1 pm to submit their nomination packages to be considered as candidates for next year’s general election.

But as the UNC seemingly turns its attention towards the general election and away from internal elections scheduled for June, Paray remained confident on April 9 that the latter will still take place.

In February, Persad-Bissessar first announced that the UNC was on an election footing and nominations would be opened for general election candidates.

In a statement issued on April 9, the UNC said its headquarters will be open on this date and on April 11 up to 6 pm to receive nomination packages from people interested in contesting next year’s general election.

Naparima MP Rodney Charles is so far the only incumbent UNC parliamentarian who has publicly said he will not stand for re-election. Charles made that announcement last year.

Newsday was informed that Persad-Bissessar and most other 19 UNC MPs would submit nomination packages in Chaguanas on April 11.

Persad-Bissessar is also Siparia MP and Opposition Leader.

Among the MPs who will be submitting nomination packages with Persad-Bissessar are Paray, Davendranath Tancoo, Barry Padarath, Anita Haynes-Alleyne, Rudranath Indarsingh, Dr Roodal Moonilal, Dr Rai Ragbir, Dr Lackram Bodoe, Dr Rishi Seecharan, Vandana Mohit and Ravi Ratiram.

At a UNC public meeting in Chaguanas on April 8, Persad-Bissessar reiterated the party’s general election preparations but did not speak about its scheduled internal elections this year.

Paray was unfazed by this.

In a WhatsApp response to Newsday, he confirmed that he will submit his nomination package before the 6 pm deadline on April 11.

Paray was steadfast in his belief that the party’s June internal elections would happen.

“As far as I can recall, there was confirmation on two previous occasions by both Mrs Persad Bissessar and Dr Moonilal that the elections will be held when it is due (sometime on or before June 26, 2024).”

He said,” As a lifetime member of the UNC, I anxiously await my opportunity to cast my vote.”

At a news conference in Couva on March 22, Paray called for the party to hold its elections. He said he was not afraid about 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, except for political leader.

The election for this 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.

Persad-Bissessar and several other UNC MPs and senators criticised him for his statements.

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 to be held was not a capitulation to Persad-Bissessar and he will continue to advocate for those elections to take place.

Ragbir, Haynes-Alleyne and Charles have supported Paray’s call for internal elections to be held when they are constitutionally due. The trio have also expressed their support for Persad-Bissessar as the UNC’s leader.

Tancoo, who is also the UNC’s chairman, reiterated the party’s position on internal elections.

“This has been stated repeatedly in the public domain that the party will act in accordance with the (its) constitution.”

Among those submitting nomination packages could be Opposition Senators Jayanti Lutchmedial-Ramdial and Anil Roberts.

A former sport minister in the former UNC-led People’s Partnership coalition government, Roberts may be considered as the party’s candidate for the critical marginal constituency of St Joseph, which is represented in Parliament by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

Deyalsingh has been St Joseph MP since 2013.

Lutchmedial-Ramdial could be a nominee for another key marginal seat, San Fernando West.

Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi is that constituency’s MP.

There is also the option for Lutchmedial-Ramdial to contest the UNC stronghold of Naparima.

Recently, there has been speculation about whether or not Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally will stand for re-election after a fake resignation letter was circulated on some social media platforms.

Rambally subsequently quashed rumours of his resignation as sheer nonsense.

Rambally said, “Members of the media are fully aware as well that they ought not to give any credence whatsoever to something that is patently and obviously fake.”

He reiterated that he remains responsible and accountable to his constituents in the conduct of his parliamentary duties.

Rambally is expected to submit his nomination package on April 11.

The UNC is expected to begin screening the selected nominees in May.