Paray to colleagues on UNC internal elections on June 15: Let your voices be heard

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Member of Parliament for Mayaro Rushton Paray makes the call for the United National Congress to hold its Natex election during a press conference at the Couva Chamber of Commerce Hall last March. The election will be held on June 15. – Ayanna Kinsale

AMIDST mounting pressure from at least five dissidents in the United National Congress (UNC), the party said in a surprise announcement that it would hold its National Executive (Natex) elections on June 15.

The five MPs are Mayaro MP Rushton Paray, Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes-Alleyne, Naparima MP Rodney Charles, Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Dr Rai Ragbir and Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally.

They have been calling for the internal elections, constitutionally due in June, to be held. The fraction has said the UNC cannot win the general election, constitutionally due in 2025, under the existing executive, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC. She is also the MP for Siparia.

Persad-Bissessar’s position as political leader will not be contested in the election, which means she will continue to lead in the new Natex.

The election of a new political leader is due in 2025.

At least 19 posts are up for grabs in the upcoming elections.

These include the three deputy political leaders and party chairman.

The three outgoing deputy political leaders are Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee and Senator Jearlean John.

Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo is the current chairman.

Paray was the first person to call for the Natex to be held. With the date set, Paray said he was pleased that it was finally announced.

“These elections will play a critical role in the organisation, governance and management of our party. If the UNC is to break the cycle of repeated general election failures which have kept us in opposition for the past nine years, then we must reform the way our party operates and manages its affairs,” a statement from Paray on May 11 said.

“I look forward to participating in these elections, and I will discuss the extent of my participation soon.”

The MP also called on his colleagues to participate in these elections and let their voices be heard.

“The UNC belongs to all its members, and they have an essential role to play in restoring the vitality and electability of our party,” he said.

“I ask all UNC members who are interested in participating in the good governance of our party to notify me in writing. Members can drop off their letters at Lot 16 McBean Road, Couva, from 6 am to 6 pm on any day from tomorrow (May 12).”

He added that now more than ever, Trinidad and Tobago needs the UNC in government.

Paray said, “We cannot allow this PNM (People’s National Movement) regime to continue to destroy our nation for another five years. Building a stronger UNC means making a stronger Trinidad and Tobago.”

Haynes-Alleyne was pleased with the announcement, which she called welcome news.

“Over the next few weeks, our party will have the opportunity to demonstrate to all members and the wider public the strength of our internal processes and our commitment to democracy,” Haynes-Alleyne said via a media statement on May 11.

“I look forward to participating in this process of strengthening our party and engaging our membership. Truly, the successful execution of this election will invigorate our party and put us on a stronger footing to contest the upcoming general election.”

Haynes-Alleyne further said she was excited for the campaign ahead and the policy-based platforms that would emerge as the party highlight its plans to further strengthen and build the nation.

“Trinidad and Tobago is well poised to level up the maturity in our politics,” she added.

“As we execute our internal elections in the UNC it is my hope that we exemplify the much-needed shift towards policy-based platforms, respectful debate and the widespread participation of our fellow citizens.”

Rambally was critical of how the announcement was made, adding that finally, the political leader gave the nod for the Natex elections.

He said the manner of the announcement was nothing short of astounding.

“In the wee nocturnal hours last night, the ‘party’ announced via social media that it will be held on Saturday, June 15,” Rambally said via a media statement on May 11.

“The political leader and the current Natex continue to operate as though elections are only about announcing a date, campaigning, and the actual day of elections.”

Rambally recalled a conversation with a reporter on the election process.

Based on that interview and publication, Rambally charged that it was clear that the party chairman did not know that a date was being set and scheduled to be announced purportedly under the hand of the general secretary.

“If he knew, why did he not simply say that an announcement would be made soon as opposed to the usual rhetoric that ‘elections would be called when they are constitutionally due,'” Rambally said.

“My short point is that the present arms of the party do not function according to the UNC’s constitution under the political leader. Hopefully, the appointment of a new Natex may assist in changing the way things are done in the party.”

He repeated what he said in a press conference on April 12 about the election being a process.

Rambally added, “It is not sakaying roti and a curry duck cook-off at the party’s headquarters. It is serious business. It involves planning, consultation, allowance for registration of members, regularisation of existing members, promulgation of election rules, appointment of an election committee, selection of venues etc and all with meaningful stipulated time frames leading up to the elections.”

“We wait with bated breath for something meaningful to be said about the election process as soon as possible.”

A post on the UNC Facebook page at 11.53 pm on May 10 shows a notice that the UNC will be accepting nominations for its national executive elections.

The notice from Peter Kanhai, the party’s general secretary, also says nomination forms will be available at UNC headquarters at Mulchan Seuchan Road in Chaguanas between 9 am and 4 pm on weekdays from May 13.

The venues for the poll are yet to be announced.