Former United National Congress Couva North MP Ramona has done a blistering post-mortem of the party’s General Election campaign, pointing fingers squarely at Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s leadership.
To begin moving the party forward from the campaign, which she says was a “disaster” and to prepare for government, Ramdial recommends Persad-Bissessar start formal conversations with members and that all alienated members must be called back.
“Call the party together and let members speak!” Ramdial said yesterday.
Ramdial was among incumbents who weren’t selected to contest seats for the August 10 election. She was replaced by Ravi Ratiram.
Ramdial, who’d remained silent during the campaign, finally spoke out yesterday.
The UNC life member said: “After a month of post-election reflection, I’ve also heard every political analyst, radio/tv talk show and most importantly UNC members. Their hurt and disappointment is very strong. For the next five years, they’ll clearly be asking questions why and how we lost – again.
“Political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar spoke to our party on election night and on the day of her appointment as Opposition Leader. Her words didn’t comfort or give hope to members. There were no promises of facilitating some party activity online or otherwise for members to speak. It’s no secret UNC members want to speak and ask questions. They’re clamouring for an election post-mortem.”
Ramdial added, “UNC’s election campaign was a disaster to say the least. The rapid slide downwards started with certain candidate selections, where the promise of ‘bright, young, new faces’ was subverted for the ‘new old’, plagued by alleged corruption and misbehaviour in public office and the clear mass movement of ten national executive officers to safe seats. This left a gaping hole in the campaign team.
“There was public outcry since the leader rejected some good, clean, hardworking incumbents for some candidates who couldn’t be properly presented, as they never spoke on the national platform. The inconsistent candidate selection provided political fodder for the PNM – expose after expose.
“Statements such as ‘take it to the police’ and ‘who vex loss,’ was a slap in the face for voters who believe that in politics perception is reality’. This further hurt UNC’s chances.’’
Ramdial admitted to being upset when she wasn’t re-selected for Couva North.
“I was very hurt and confused. I had unanimous support from Couva North’s executive, a 2000-signature petition, endorsement letters from every single religious group, sporting organisations, CBOs and NGOs. Yet still, this failed to persuade the screening committee to re-select me,” Ramdial said.
“Worse, the constituency executive made requests to see the leader and she refused. Many constituents were angry. They held four protests and called media hoping the leadership would meet with them. I only highlight this to show that the leader and executive disrespected and ignored hard-core supporters and its own party structure in selection of candidates. This happened in many constituencies. Today, we’re paying the price for the screening committee not listening to the people’s wishes.”
Ramdial said this was also borne out by the point that for a very long time, party arms haven’t been working.
“During the last five years, there’s been no National Assembly, youth national assembly, no women’s national assembly, no party school—no other forum where members could speak freely. The party’s democracy has been eroded to a state of disrepair.”
She added, “In 2017, several former colleagues suggested to the leader that the UNC should seek unity with opposing forces against PNM, which would have enhanced our election chances.
“It was an idea to which I subscribed. However, the leader stated UNC was going at it alone. It was also suggested to unite the UNC by bringing back in those who were on the outside. This too was shot down. Those decisions also contributed to us losing, since many of our members were dejected by ‘going it alone’. Conversely, the other party was uniting its base.
“Our National Platform lacked powerful speakers with the capacity to respond to the PNM, without picong and wit to engage the listening audience, our platform was weak and boring. Our ad campaign was also thoughtless, divisive and unattractive to youths. The leader’s statements on handling the Coronavirus pandemic, race relations and financial sector also caused fear and loss of confidence in UNC.”
Ramdial said looking to 2025, Persad-Bissessar must start formal conversation with members on the election loss.
“An internal election’s due soon. We must all ensure that process is free and fair. Most importantly, UNC needs to be united within and without, as it’s going through its darkest hour. UNC members are fed up of losing. We must convince T&T we’re the best hope in these bleak times. All alienated patriotic members must be called back home.”
Ramdial said she intended to remain a UNC member, adding it was a possibility she might contest an executive post in party elections.