Devant Maharaj (left) has challenged incumbent UNC Political Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC (centre), and Political Leader candidate Vasant Bharath (right), to debate party-related and national issues with him.

Political activist and former government minister, Devant Maharaj, has thrown down the gauntlet and issued a challenge to incumbent UNC Political Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC, and candidate for the UNC’s top job, Vasant Bharath, to debate with him “anytime”, “anywhere” on issues impacting the party.

Maharaj, who also has indicated his intention to contest the post of Political Leader on Sunday 6 December 2020—the date of the party’s internal election—issued the challenge via a news release issued late on Tuesday night.

And the political activist says should they refuse to debate the issues, they would be showing who they really are.

“Failure by Vasant Bharath or Kamla Persad Bissessar to participate in the public debate not only speaks to their cowardice to accept the challenge, but also their contempt for the UNC membership,” he states in the release.

According to Maharaj, the debate could be moderated by the Debates Commission or the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He also says the role of Political Leader of the UNC is important in the local political landscape, which makes this particular internal election quite significant.

“In this context, I hereby challenge Mr Vasant Bharath and Kamla Persad Bissessar in a public debate, anywhere, anytime on the issues affecting the United National Congress and relevant National Issues,” he declares in the release.

He points out: “The debate would be transformative in terms of local party politics and would only serve to deepen the democracy, not only in the UNC, but also for Trinidad and Tobago. In mature democracies which we hold as benchmarks and gold-standards, leadership public debates are commonplace so why not Trinidad and Tobago.”

The political activist also argues the debate will be crucial for the UNC membership “not be fully aware of all the pertinent issues in this internal election”, given the way the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way in which the election will be conducted, and which had an adverse impact on the conduct of the recent General Election.