UNC chairman, party whip knock Rambally’s criticism of Kamla

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

UNC chairman Davendranath Tancoo, right, and Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh after they filed nomination papers to be considered as candidates for the next general elections at the UNC headquarters, in Chaguanas on April 11. – ROGER JACOB

Amidst decent from some party members, Opposition Whip David Lee and UNC chairman Davendranath Tancoo are defending Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the party.

Both made statements of support on Saturday in response to Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally’s saying another leader was needed if the United National Congress (UNC) was to win the next general election.

At a press conference on April 12, Rambally advocated for timely internal elections and called for accountability and transparency from the party leadership.

He said opposition MPs rarely met before debating bills or matters affecting the party as a whole and parliamentary debates on government policy that require in-depth analysis were often neglected with little or no co-ordination before debates.

He also alluded to accusations made by the Prime Minister about “a human trafficker” on the opposition benches in the Parliament, saying there were too many issues of credibility and allegations of wrongdoing to be shaken off.

in response to Rambally, Persad-Bissessar said on April 12 there was no room for intolerance and extremism in the party or the country. She added that the “public rants” by a few members only helped the current “oppressive government.”

“As leader, I represent all people equally and fairly. I cannot and will not be controlled by any individual or group to promote any singular agenda at the expense of other sections of society.”

Tancoo said he had no problem with people in the party having differences of opinion but concerns should be raised within the party structure, “with an open mind, without the bitterness and misinformation.”

But, he said, that would only happen if the point was to build the party and the nation, and comments were based on fact with the intent to provide a platform for truth and growth.

“One cannot purport to be fighting for democracy by attacking the demonstrated democratic rights of members of the UNC. The UNC political leader and the national executive have been elected by the majority in a democratic election to serve for a particular time frame, and in full compliance with the party’s constitution.

“For a few persons to now make demands that the demonstrated will of the majority should be ignored because they feel they are better suited is illogical and contrary to the UNC’s constitution and values.”

He said the timing was also suspicious with the general election and the election for political leader due next year, and the party’s internal elections due in June. He said with officials making it clear the party would continue to abide by the constitution, the call for internal elections was a non-issue.

He added that it made no sense to say the party was unprepared for the general election while demanding it stop preparations for it.

“Similarly, it is also illogical to claim to be fighting for the democratic freedom to express your view while simultaneously attacking the membership of the UNC, who have a view opposed to yours. That itself is undemocratic.”

Tancoo also challenged anyone who has evidence of human trafficking to report it to the police, saying to accuse anyone of the crime without evidence was equally heinous as the crime itself.

“I look forward to the relevant authorities immediately undertaking the relevant investigations and actions to clear my name, and that of my UNC colleagues. The public will decide on the rationale for the inclusion of unsubstantiated PNM smear during an election season as the basis for an attack on the UNC leadership and Natex.”

Former government minister Devant Maharaj had first made allegations of human trafficking involving a UNC official in March last year, and the matter was being investigated by the Counter-Trafficking Unit.

Tancoo dismissed Rambally’s accusation, saying the party’s parliamentary arm caucuses before and after Parliament sittings and this usually involved discussions on the issues before the Parliament and a consensus view is taken as to the party’s voting position.

“The direction of the vote is usually circulated to members via the MPs’ group chat before the actual vote. I have not seen any instances of query or opposition to the proposed vote in any communication. This is the way a true democratic party, with the nation’s interest at heart, functions.”

He said he was proud of the significant advances the party had made over the years in broadening its base and increasing its public presence to the point at which the views of every section of society were represented.

He said those who may feel their individual or group influence would be diminished by that change may be uneasy with the development. But, he said, change was not something to be fearful of but something to be embraced as evidence of mature and stable leadership.

Lee described Persad-Bissessar as a “leader who leads from the ground” and said she was the only leader who presented a holistic plan to defeat the anti-citizen agenda of the PNM.

As a result, he said, as supported by voting figures, the UNC had been taking ground from the PNM since 2021.

“As Chief Whip I can confirm that Kamla Persad-Bissessar has led the opposition bench by always ensuring consensus, by always being inclusive and more so always ensuring that our members of parliament are fully prepared to fight the PNM’s attack on our citizens.

“From constantly working with our MPs to define our parliamentary positions for each debate based on the national interest to even having her personal staff help our MPs with research, the Leader of the Opposition has led an alternative government that is ready to defeat the PNM.”