Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Gail Alexander

UNC political leader contender Vasant Bharath has written to incumbent Kamla Persad-Bissessar suggesting they have a vigorous debate, pulling no punches.

However, he said they should first meet to settle ground rules on the conduct of elections and the way in which they intend to campaign. The letter was sent after Bharath expressed concern about election issues to UNC’s election team. He said yesterday he didn’t get responses, therefore, he’s inviting Persad-Bissessar to discuss the issues.

Bharath’s letter stated, “I trust this letter finds you in good health. I also hope you have enjoyed a holy and spiritually fulfilling Diwali season. I sincerely wish unto you and your family the blessings of Mother Lakshmi; may prosperity and health be yours for many years to come.”

“Let me take this opportunity to wish you well in the upcoming internal elections. While I cannot advocate for your success, you do have my respect and best wishes. My decision to offer myself for leadership is not because of any personal animosity towards you. Respectfully, it’s a decision which I genuinely feel is in the best interest of our beloved party and all its members.’’

“In that regard, I think it is our responsibility as leaders to ensure that this internal election is conducted with a high standard of civility and professionalism from which our members and supporters can derive a sense of pride. I do not suggest that either of us pull our punches. Vigorous debate is the essence of democracy. However, I do think certain ground rules can be established for both the conduct of elections and the manner in which we intend to campaign.”

He added, “Issues such as the Election Committee, Election Rules, Membership Lists, and arrangements for Polling Day should ultimately be consensual and the product of mature discussions.’’

Bharath also raised the scheduling of a public debate on party issues among all candidates.

“A public debate would serve to inform party members of our respective views on rebuilding and retooling our party for success in future elections.’’

Bharath’s slate will be announced tomorrow.

Some members include Larry Lalla (Chairman), Ramona Ramdial (Deputy Political Leader), Dr Stephen Ramroop (Deputy Political Leader) and Barrington ‘Skippy’ Thomas (Tobago Affairs).

Meanwhile, former UNC Tabaquite MP Dr Suruj Rambachan who is weighing choices in the UNC’s leadership election has cited deficiencies under the incumbent Kamla Persad-Bissessar leadership and he says challenger Vasant Bharath has grown a lot.

Rambachan spoke yesterday after Bharath on Sunday filed nomination papers to contest the post of political leader.

Papers were also sent on behalf of Persad-Bissessar.

Devant Maharaj, who had said he would contest the leadership, dropped out.

Rambachan told Guardian Media, “I’m examining all options. UNC must refresh itself. It’s taken too long to rebuild institutions and reorganise to present itself as an alternative government. The current executive under current leadership aren’t taking the necessary steps for this.”

Rambachan said, “I’d tried to help. I was one of those who always made my views known whether in form of compliments or supportive criticism. It was’ taken on’ in some cases, not necessarily all. But no one expects everything one says will be heeded.”

On whether Persad-Bissessar’s time is over, Rambachan said, “She’s indicated she’s had time for soul-searching before she continued as Opposition Leader. That indicates she’s recognised the need for transition and part of her role will likely be to form future UNC leadership.”

Rambachan, however, said he felt she’d missed too many Parliamentary meetings and he also feared the leader was only being told what she wanted to hear from those around her.

“People must have more courage to speak to her honestly. Many are being protective of their positions rather than thinking of UNC’s long term viability,” he said.

“The new team made a good Budget debate effort but there’s need for more research support. If the party doesn’t refresh, it’ll remain in Opposition or fold up. We lost the recent general elections not because of our plans but because people didn’t trust us. The public’s alienated from both UNC and PNM and that’s not healthy since you’ll only get substandard governance.”

“Vasant’s grown quite a lot. He’s a very skilled person. I think he has the capability to enter the role of leadership as others can also. But UNC lacks mechanisms for growing leaders.”