Ragoonath: Paray may be committing political suicide

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath. –

MAYARO MP Rushton Paray may be committing political suicide when he called for the UNC to hold internal elections and warned the party that it will lose next year’s general election if it does not. This was the view expressed on March 23 by political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath.

At a news conference in Couva on March 22, Paray said, “Today we are all making this public demand because we have a grave concern that there is an attempt from the executive to devalue the UNC’s internal election by suggesting it is not necessary or not even needed.”

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 believes the talk of a general election was simply a ruse intended to suppress the voice of the UNC’s membership. He said he was not afraid about becoming Ragoonath: Paray may be committing political suicide an outcast within the UNC for taking this stand.

Ragoonath said Paray runs the risk of not being chosen to stand for re-election in Mayaro next year, simply by taking the position he has. That risk remains real should the party hold internal elections and he succeeds or fails in whatever post he chooses to challenge for.

“The selection process of candidates (for any election), the screening and selection is normally done by the Natex or members of the Natex. So if he loses in the Natex election, assuming there is an election, that places him already at a disadvantage.”

Ragoonath said, “More importantly when you look at whoever wins that Natex (election), they are the ones who are going to control the screening process. They will determine whether or not Mr Paray is a worthy choice to go forward, carrying the UNC banner or not.”

Asked if this was Paray committing political suicide, Ragoonath said, “Well, it possibly is committing political suicide.” He viewed Paray’s call for internal elections as a fear suggesting that the UNC will not hold Natex elections in June.

“I think he’s trying to put pressure on the party leadership to ensure that they call the election.” With the political leader’s post not up for grabs now, Ragoonath believed Paray is after one of the UNC’s three deputy leader positions. Those positions are currently held by Dr Roodal Moonilal, Jearlean John and David Lee.

He said, “Clearly he can’t run for political leader so he probably wants to run for deputy political leader to probably position himself should he win, to take leadership of the party.” Ragoonath was not optimistic Paray would be successful if this was his objective.

“The UNC as a party will tend to want to follow the leadership and if there is going to be an (internal) election, as we have seen in the past, there will be slates (of candidates).” He said Paray will be unsuccessful in any internal election if he is not on a slate which is supported by Persad-Bissessar.

“That puts him in a very difficult position. Not only do you have to make sure that the rank and file who do not support the political leader will come out and vote but bear in mind that the political leader, the core base of the political leader, are the ones who will normally come out and vote in an internal election.”

Ragoonath said there is a view that an examination of past UNC internal elections shows that “the core membership that will come out and vote comes from the constituencies of Siparia, Oropouche East, Oropouche West…in that geographical location.” These constituencies are represented in Parliament by Persad-Bissessar, Moonilal and Davendranath Tancoo respectively. Tancoo is the incumbent UNC chairman.

Ragoonath added, “That is the area that will more or less be the base of Kamla Persad-Bissessar.” He declined to comment on the findings of a North American Caribbean Teachers Association (Nacta) poll on March 22, which said Persad-Bissessar should step aside as UNC leader and not lead the party into the next general election.

“The issue of succession planning is always a concern for many people.” Ragoonath had no idea how this has been done or is being done within the UNC. “We know we have three deputy leaders accepted by the membership. So we will assume that if Mrs Persad-Bissessar decides to demit office, one of those three deputies most likely will be asked to fill in.” As an outsider, Ragoonath said it was not his place to make such pronouncements.