With Nomination Day 11 days away, several UNC nominees are awaiting word after screening and some constituencies–including Couva North and South–are still to be screened.
Nomination Day for the May 24 general election is May 3. The ruling PNM completed screening last week. UNC's screening began over a week ago and initial projections were that ten areas would have been screened over a period of four to five days. But screening was put on hold intermittently as UNC leaders who head the screening team dealt with unity negotiations. Officials projected screening may be completed this weekend. They said the large number of nominees forthcoming also was responsible for the delay. The UNC would contest 24 seats in the unity arrangement. The other 17 are being contested by the COP–which has ten–NJAC, MSJ and Tobago's TOP which has two. UNC officials said constituencies, which were screened first, and finalised, were those held by leadership and executive officials, including, Kamla Persad-Bissessar (SIparia); Chaguanas West (Jack Warner); Oropouche East (Roodal Moonilal); San Juan (Fuad Khan) and Mayaro (Winston Peters). Also screened and approved was Clifton de Coteau for Princes Town South. This leaves over ten seats still to be finalised, officials said. Yesterday, Caroni East and Tabaquite officials were among those still awaiting word following the screening of nominees for those areas.
Those in the running for Tabaquite are incumbent Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Petrotrin engineer Ravi Ratiram and former COP member Anand Ramlogan. Maharaj has objected to Ramlogan's involvement, saying the UNC's constitution does not allow candidacy by persons who have not been party members for less than a year. UNC's Tabaquite executive chairman Henry Awong said yesterday: "We would like an idea of who the candidate is since we have to get the candidate on the ground to meet people. "We've done work towards mobilising but Nomination Day is in just over ten days time and we would need to take the person around." Awong said the executive was willing to work with whoever the party chose for Tabaquite "in the interest of the party and country." Caroni East officials also said they wanted to know whether incumbent MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh had been successful in screening over nominee Anil Ramnarine who is the constituency chairman. One official said: "It's absolutely necessary for us to find out soon since we have to do some work on the ground as the MP has not always been around." Also waiting word is Cumuto/Manzanilla, where nominees are incumbent Harry Partap, one-time MP Krish Jurai and Savitri Lochan.
Partap's son, Colin, is among nine nominees screened for Princes Town and awaiting word. The other seven nominees include incumbent Subhas Panday and one-time MP Reeza Mohammed. The UNC leadership has ruled out having family members on the candidate team. Constituencies which have not been screened yet include Couva North, Couva South, Chaguanas East, Oropouche West, St Joseph and Caroni Central, San Fernando East. Caroni Central MP Hamza Rafeeq's constituency secretariat was among those which confirmed the situation. Those in the running for Chaguanas East included football referee Ramesh Ramdan, councillor Gopaul Boodan and contractor R Ali,
For Couva North are former journalist Sunil Ramjitsingh and UNC deputy leader Suruj Rambachan. Ramjitsingh, who grew up in Couva North, has chaired the caretaker team working the seat in the last two years.
Rambachan was nominated by Orlando Nagessar, former chairman of UNC's Couva North constituency, who served under Rambachan when the latter was Chaguanas mayor. Those awaiting screening for Couva South are incumbent MP Kelvin Ramnath, UNC deputy leader Lyndira Oudit, former COP member Devant Maharaj, attorney Dave Persad, sugar union leader Rudy Indarsingh and Rudy Narinesingh. Sources said careful consideration would be given in screening for locations like Couva South and Tabaquite, where former COP members who have not been UNC members for a year, are involved. Sole nominee screened for Diego Martin Central, Garvin Nicholas, who dissolved his fledgling MND party to join the UNC in January, said he had been a "lifetime member of the UNC." Although St Augustine MP Vasant Bharath was screened for the seat, along with Kadijah Amin, he has not been told anything so far, his executive confirmed. The COP was given St Augustine to contest in the unity arrangement.