“What did you do? Where were you? You were never there!”
That was the battle cry accusation last night from incumbent UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar against leadership rival Vasant Bharath, as she launched her Star slate for December 6 internal elections.
Persad-Bissessar came out swinging bitterly, throwing words – but not calling names – against the rival Bharath slate. She also had a backhand for the media, which she said the other team gravitated to.
Persad- Bissessar complained that there was a five-year cycle after elections “when traitors, lazy opportunists and destroyers come out to damage the UNC … since 2015 they campaigned against us to damage our chances, it was more important to them to attempt to humiliate Kamla and the UNC in order to elevate themselves.”
“They don’t want to elevate themselves through hard work and merit, they want it by tearing down others. The five years of attacks from those who want to lead you now, coupled with their attacks on our young candidates, took its toll on the UNC. Why would undecided voters vote for us when our own members were campaigning for PNM against us?”
She said while the other team preached unity, they’d said vile things about her and the UNC.
Persad-Bissessar warned that the “Two Ants” (Devant Maharaj and Vasant Bharath) were a tag team although Maharaj withdrew from the election race.
“Don’t be fooled, they’re a tag team, I’ll call them out for what they are! All that talk of unity and friendship – where were you, we were out every night – where were you? You were on some Facebook page cussing people.”
She slammed “nasty” social media pages where she said people’s faces were caricatured and twisted. Detailing the Opposition work, she said, “’We did very well. I’m not taking the blame!”
Persad-Bissessar said people had said the party needed young people, yet when these were obtained the same people said they were school children.
“Was I expected to bypass members who worked hard for years in favour of people who tried for five years to form their own party with PNM and failed, attacked the UNC in the press, campaigned against the UNC with the PNM in all elections, helped write the PNM manifesto and denigrated our own members?” she asked.
In an obvious reference to former MP Ramona Ramdial, she questioned why certain (former) MPs had behaved as they did. “They sat in Parliament for 10 years! Then one day they didn’t get the seat and you all over the country bad talking the party! Because you didn’t get the seat? And saying ‘tell me why I didn’t get the seat’? Gyurl, I don’t want to tell you that tonight – I really don’t want to.”
Attacking the media, which she said the rival team gravitated to, she claimed statements she made on the banking sector were not reported in mainstream media.
Noting the humble beginnings of some UNC MPs – who worked to earn money to pay for university and were sons of a roti shop operator and taxi driver- Persad-Bissessar said the election issues from rivals involved caste and class.
“Is it because they (new people) came from modest backgrounds, those who subscribe to caste and class will find no place in the UNC, those days are long gone, if you feel you are high class and the UNC must bow down to you, you’re deluded.”
She said whenever she was down, the grassroots UNC members always lifted her up.
“This is why the greatest gift I could give to the grassroots membership of our party is to elevate your children to the leadership roles within this party and Parliament This is what I ‘ve been doing since 2015 … when I leave in future, I’d have ensured that the UNC rank and file membership control their own party and destiny.”
She warned against party division. On queries about her doing the UNC’s election manual, she explained her team had done a manual to guide themselves for their campaign. She said those in the UNC who are against her leadership are celebrated by PNM operatives.