Siparia MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar has put a sound licking on her two rivals to become the new leader of the United National Congress (UNC). In the process, she became the first woman to become the leader of a major political party in Trinidad and Tobago. Although results were trickling in at UNC headquarters at Rienzi Complex, Couva, Persad-Bissessar was clear in the lead in most of the 28 polling stations. Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner was also heading for a landslide victory against St Augustine MP Vasant Bharath.
Just before 9 pm, one of Persad-Bissessar's rivals, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, conceded defeat and congratulated her. At a news conference at St Mary's Junction in Freeport, Maharaj thanked his campaign team, and said he was prepared to work with the new executive. But the incumbent political leader, Basdeo Panday, decided to remain at his home at Bryans Gate, Phillipines, rather than go to Rienzi Complex to concede defeat. During an interview on CNC3 last night, Panday said he would not concede defeat, saying it was not a matter for himself alone.
He said he was not emotional at the defeat. "Why should I be emotional? I don't have to be emotional at anything. I have done a job to the best of my ability, why should I have any regrets?" he said. Panday, who formed the UNC in 1989, felt that the UNC would be stronger after yesterday's internal elections. Asked what he was doing last night, Panday said he was having fun, answering his e-mails. There was celebration in Penal last night as hundreds turned out to greet the new leader of the UNC. It caused a traffic congestion, with motorists honking their horns.