Opposition MP Ganga Singh

United National Congress (UNC) leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s call for political sides opposed to the People’s National Movement (PNM) to join with her party is a concept of “unity” has come too late to be trusted as sincere, after the UNC leadership rejected that call from its MPs in 2019.

“… Coming on the eve of Nomination Day, it is like the story of the spider saying to the fly, ‘Come into my parlour’,” added outgoing UNC MP Ganga Singh, who’d proposed that UNC have unity talks with other forces in 2019. He was unsuccessful.

Other UNC frontliners who’d called for unity of parties in 2018 and 2019 also dissed Persad-Bissessar’s unity call. She made the call at Thursday’s virtual UNC meeting.

Outgoing UNC MPs Singh, Fuad Khan and others, including Vasant Bharath, Devant Maharaj, Jack Warner and UNC founder Basdeo Panday, had called for unity at a function Singh had in December 2018.

It was signalled by the leadership the UNC was open but only to those who shared the party’s philosophy. Singh and Khan attempted to get party discussion on the issue via a resolution at a UNC Congress in 2019. But the resolution wasn’t allowed on the agenda, Singh recalled. The party subsequently decided to “go it alone.” There was also no movement for Bharath to be returned to the fold.

Singh decided not to contest because of the unity call failure. Khan also stepped down.

Yesterday, Singh said of Persad-Bissessar’s call, “I’m happy the Opposition leader has come around to the point of view which was expressed in our resolution. That resolution was for the Congress to approve our call for UNC to engage in talks with a broad spectrum – from civic and religious groups to business and political figures and parties – to build a firm platform to fight 2020 elections.

“Unfortunately, it was dismissed outright. No discussion. The leader said we’d ‘go it alone’. But now, at the 11th hour before Nomination Day, she makes this call for unity, dismounting one horse and jumping on the unity horse.”

Singh added “It rings very hollow to me and raises questions on integrity and credibility. You can’t call for unity before Nomination Day when parties already planned their business and have candidates. In the absence of firmly built and known arrangements, her concept of unity is like the spider saying to the fly – come into my parlour.”

Singh said T&T is in very serious straits, requiring thought-centric people and deep expertise all round.

“UNC’s leader has now recognised her choice of candidates lack attractive qualities and she now seeks to pull in others. But there can be no ‘shotgun marriage’ with voters again after the experiences of the NAR and PP groupings,” Singh said.

“I don’t see people buying this. There can be no real trust for that kind of unity in an election atmosphere after saying before that the UNC was going it alone.’’

Khan meanwhile said, “Ganga and I paid the ultimate price. I hung up my guns. The leader seems to have seen the light. But just before an election, that call is late. It will come across as totally opportunistic. It would have been better to have discussed it and let people decide when we brought the 2018 resolution.

“The smaller parties have nothing. If they want to enter government they might have to accept the call or maybe they may not trust the process at this late stage.’’

Maharaj said, “The Opposition leader’s call for a unity accord is as interesting as it is confusing, since when a similar call for unity talks was made before, including at a national congress – that call was dismissed.

“On the eve of Nomination Day such a call may be viewed as insincere with only the purpose of defeating the PNM as the unifying factor. The unity call shows that dismissal of the previous call was a missed opportunity for developing real unity foundation to remove the PNM.

“With only weeks before elections, it will be instructive to see which third parties, if any, choose to accept UNC’s call. The unqualified and reliable incompetence of the Rowley Government, however, may serve to push all parties to unite in order to avoid another year term of economic turmoil.”

Bharath said, “This unity call has been made before by various people as history has shown that the PNM can be and has been beaten when opposition forces unite. But the unity was clearly and publicly rejected by the UNC’s leader on several occasions, even rebuking those in the party who called for it.

“Whether the public and parties will see this latest call as too little too late and another marriage of convenience is left to be seen.”

Attempts to contact Panday were unsuccessful as he didn’t answer either his cellphone or landline.

—Gail Alexander