Ralph Maraj calls on NTA/UNC: Unite in interest of country

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ralph Maraj – File photo

POLITICAL commentator Ralph Maraj believes the differences of opinion between the leaders of the NTA and UNC are merely a little turbulence in an attempt at unity, and one that the parties can overcome.

He said it is important they overcome these differences, in the interest of the country, which he feels needs an alternative government.

“This is a very sensitive issue,” said Maraj, who served in the Cabinet under both the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC).

“It is unfortunate there seems to be this rift between the Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and Gary Griffith of the National Transformation Alliance (NTA).”

He observed that the coalition performed quite well in the last local government elections, with the UNC making inroads into PNM strongholds due to the NTA’s influence, and said together with other third parties, they can be a robust force against the ruling PNM in 2025, when a general election is due.

“The country needs a strong challenger to the present government, which in my view, has not performed very well at all. The majority of the population share that sentiment.

“We need a strong challenger in the context of the 2025 general elections, and a united opposition would provide that strong challenge, one which I am quite sure would allow our democracy to produce the kind of society we want.”

Maraj was critical of both Persad-Bissessar and Griffith for the public rift, which he said does not augur well for the kind of cohesive unit that is needed at this time in the country’s history.

He said Persad-Bissessar should never have made statements which appeared to be critical of the smaller parties in the coalition, and Griffith should not have made his disagreement with her public.

“Both made statements that should have been made privately.

“How do you narrow that gap? In my view, they would have to get into negotiations with one another. They would have to each recognise what strengths they bring to the table and what weaknesses they also carry.

“That ought to form the basis for realistic discussion. I want to emphasise – realistic discussions, which should remain private and confidential for now.

“This is a fledgling coalition, one to my mind which has the potential to be a strong challenger to the PNM, and they ought to capitalise on the strength that was displayed during the LG (local government elections).”

He said the chasm created is not so deep that they cannot recover.

“Difficulties arise in situations like these. I would advise them to do their best to work out their differences.”

He noted that despite Persad-Bissessar insisting political partners pull their weight and show respect to her members, and Griffith’s accusing her of blatant disrespect, both have said their doors remain open to a coalition.

“It should remain open, because the country is at stake. We need to have a strong democracy going forward, and strong political contenders, strong political parties, to ensure it redounds to the benefit of the country.”

Griffith is insisting he wants to build a proper foundation of mutual respect so as not to repeat the mistakes of 2010, when the UNC-led People’s Partnership disintegrated as partners pulled out of the alliance one after the other.

While he was aware of the importance of a strategic alliance, Griffith said, any political arrangement must not be a marriage of convenience, but something more sustainable.