UNC, labour yet to forge alliance against PNM

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PSA president Leroy Baptiste. – File photo

NO formal unity talks have taken place between labour and the Opposition since Public Services Association (PSA) president Leroy Baptiste’s bold suggestion on June 19 of a partnership with the UNC, which was endorsed by JTUM leader Ancel Roget.

Baptiste said the United National Congress (UNC) has expressed its willingness to form a national force of like-minded divergent groups to remove the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) from office after what he called nine years of failure.

“We are in discussions, but there is yet to be a formal meeting,” Baptiste told the Newsday.

In a statement on another issue on Saturday, Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh said he was looking forward to that unification. He, along with other UNC MPs, including Dr Roodal Moonilal, Dr Lackram Bodoe and Wade Mark, was at the June 19 Labour Day celebrations in Fyzabad. Moonilal even wore a OWTU T-shirt.

Political leader of the National Transformation Alliance (NTA) Gary Griffith, who formed a short-lived accommodation with the UNC before the last local government elections, which saw an increase in the number of votes the Opposition amassed, said he is not averse to unity.

But Griffith told the Newsday since the LGE, there has been no dialogue with the UNC.

“Nothing has changed on our end. We are aware of the significance and value of the coalition of forces.”

Griffith has declared his hand with regard to contesting the St Joseph seat in 2025, and so too has the UNC’s Anil Roberts. Griffith has since moved the NTA headquarters to that constituency.

“We are a political party, and if other political parties do not want or see the value of forming a strategic alliance with the bridge constituency that has always been the catalyst to decide the results of an election, well, I can’t force them.

“I am certainly not going to beg them.”

Reviewing the history of alliances which led to the 1986 victory of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) and the 2010 People’s Partnership (PP), Griffith said this time around it has to be more than a marriage of convenience.

“There must be something to ensure there is substance and relevance, not just about numbers, but about political parties joining, based on a common denominator.”

In response to questions about the viability of the UNC as an alternative, given visible cracks which emerged before its recent bruising internal elections, Roget said the stakes are too high not to consider the UNC in the equation to oust the PNM once and for all.

“We are in a bad place,” said Roget, president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, and leader of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM).

He drew an analogy of a drowning person taking time to examine the outstretched hand of a man in a passing pirogue.

“TT is drowning, and if it takes joining with the UNC to save TT, we will join with the UNC to save TT, regardless of the naysayers.

“We have a responsibility to this country. You cannot be more vex than smart. You have to be prudent.”

He pledged labour’s assistance “to make the UNC a better UNC as we come together to be part of all that is good and save TT.

“There is clear and present danger. We are talking about survival of TT,” he said, pointing to what he said was the abject failure of the PNM at every level in terms of crime, the economy and the energy sector.

“This cannot be a UNC-only fight. It is affecting all of us so, all of us have to fight back.”

He said all parties opposed to the “madness and chaos” taking place would be invited to join in a national-front alliance, not a political entity, to deal with problems he claimed the PNM had created.

“There is nothing in the Bhagavad Gita or the Quran or the Bible that says the PNM has to run this country. God never spoke to us through Moses or anybody else to say PNM has to run the country even if there is corruption or the economy is bad.”

The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political arm of the OWTU has acknowledged the desire to vote out the PNM, but is yet to commit fully to the national alliance front the labour movement has proposed.