Trade unionists Errol McLeod and David Abdulah are likely to contest the May 24 general election on joint opposition "unity" tickets. And veteran political and social activist Makandal Daaga is expected to line up in one of the Laventille constituencies. In addition, United National Congress (UNC) is now slated to contest 24 seats, more than earlier designated. Further, discussions were ongoing on whether there would be a single ballot box symbol. These are the major developments arising from a late night meeting Saturday among the major opposition political players. Informed sources said McLeod and Abdulah were likely to be candidates of Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), one of the organisations in the unity pact.
McLeod, a former long-serving leader of Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU), represented Oropouche from 1976 to 1981, after being elected on a United Labour Front (ULF) ticket. Abdulah unsuccessfully contested that election, also as a ULF candidate. He is an OWTU official. The UNC top brass, headed by leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, on Saturday sealed electoral deals with MSJ and Daaga's National Joint Action Committee (NJAC). Daaga and NJAC were major architects of the 1970 Black Power protests. The UNC had on Friday struck an accord with Congress of the People (COP). There were still indications yesterday that COP leader Winston Dookeran had not yet decided on whether to face the polls.
Apart from Dookeran's candidacy, decisions have been taken on most representatives of UNC, COP, MSJ, NJAC and Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP). TOP leader Ashworth Jack said his party would decide today on candidates for Tobago East and Tobago West. While there was consensus on the St Augustine seat, there has reportedly not yet been a final decision on the choice of candidate. Sources said the candidate may not come from the aspirants who faced the screening exercise. Persad-Bissessar is said to be holding tough to her position that she would not appoint anyone who did not support her earlier bid to be named Opposition Leader.
She was appointed Opposition Leader on February 24, after eight of the then 15 Opposition MPs signed a letter to President George Maxwell Richards pledging support. If Persad-Bissessar continues to hold to her position, it could see the sidelining of St Augustine incumbent Vasant Bharath, Tabaquite's Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Mikela Panday of Oropouche West, Subhas Panday of Princes Town South, and Kelvin Ramnath of Couva South. In addition, at least one of the eight MPs who signed the document is not expected to be retained. T&T Guardian reported earlier that UNC would contest the lion's share of the 41 seats.