No retreat, no surrender!
That was the vow yesterday from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar after she received firm backing from her Parliamentarians, party arm members and membership.
This after “Bahut Kuchoor” (plenty mischief) was at play against her, UNC deputy leader Roodal Moonilal and other UNC MPs said, following reports of motions against the party’s executive and Persad-Bissessar.
An unsigned “anonymous” motion calling for Persad-Bissessar to step down was floated on social media on Wednesday, at the same time former MPs Fuad Khan and Ramona Ramdial filed a motion with the party for debate at Sunday’s party congress.
Khan’s motion, however, addressed bringing back dormant UNC members and strengthening the executive without removing Persad-Bissessar. But it didn’t qualify for debate.
Following an erroneous Trinidad Express report headline that “Kamla Must go,” UNC MPs, Senators, Natex officials and the party’s Women’s Arm all “backed” Persad-Bissessar firmly yesterday.
Responding briefly to T&T Guardian questions, Persad-Bissessar said, “It’s Carnival time and what’s been happening shows clearly that the moko jumbies and lagahoos are coming out. However, the UNC membership has already rejected the two framers of this motion.”
On the impact of the issue and others—such as the three spoilt ballots during the election of the President last week—Persad-Bissessar said, “Remember one thing: we in UNC abide by democracy.
“The UNC is fully mobilised, it is strong and we will show you that at Sunday’s Congress. It is a new year. We are on the move. And we’re ready for Government. No retreat. No surrender.”
Moonilal added, “Khan’s motion is illogical and out of time. If they want to remove the leader and executive, they can mobilise members and at the appropriate time, seek to change the executive through the constitutional process.”
He said the other “nameless” motion to remove Persad-Bissessar was designed for political mischief and felt the PNM had infiltrated and was behind that matter and using what they feel are UNC faces to attack UNC.
“It’s what we say is ‘Bahut Kuchoor’—plenty mischief,” he said, adding Khan’s motion appeared to be a bid to remove UNC’s executive via a process ultra vires to UNC’s constitution.
“I can only conclude the objective is Bahut Kuchoor too. I think he and (Ramona) Ramdial, who are visibly absent from UNC’s daily battles, are frustrated with Keith Rowley’s mismanagement and don’t know what to do. But the UNC is the most vibrant Opposition party in the Caribbean—no other has such high public interface thrice weekly.”
MP Barry Padarath said he was among the first to receive Khan’s motion from Khan himself.
“But it’s vacuous and mischievous. Both Khan and Ramdial unsuccessfully contested UNC’s internal election last year and since then, haven’t contributed to the party’s development and rebuilding in any significant way. Instead, they’ve attacked the party, the executive and leader with a self-serving interest,” Padarath said.
“Both must say what they’ve done in members’ interest. They and the handful supporting them have said nothing on the high levels of crime, cost of living and massive unemployment. They only found their voice when an election is upon us, or they see a political opportunity to create division and criticise UNC. Both should behave and work towards removing the PNM—not Kamla.”
MP Rodney Charles added, “It’s an attempt to create mischief, calumny and Kuchoor. My good friend Fuad and others are creatures of the media and Facebook and have no substantial following on the ground.
“There are avenues to come into the party—work hard, get the numbers and challenge, if you win and people will follow you. If you don’t win, we go with the people elected. So, until people are ready to do the hard work, they’ll just continue being creatures of Facebook and the media.”
UNC whip David Lee said members, the National Executive and the Parliamentary Arm remain in full support of Persad-Bissessar. He said any report/story to the contrary “is not only futile but is just malicious, cowardly political hubris echoed by those who have lost political relevance and value self-interest above national interest.”
“The Opposition Leader continues to be loved not only by her party’s membership but by citizens who value her as the only person that could save this nation from the socio-economic turmoil it faces,” he added, detailing her battles for the public.
UNC chairman Dave Tancoo, added, “There’s no vacancy for leadership. There’s a democratically elected Political Leader and national executive. The UNC elected their party representatives and voted overwhelmingly for Mrs Persad-Bissessar and her slate. It’s unfortunate that some who were badly defeated seem unable to put their loss behind them, and have refused the leader’s open offer to work with the party towards government.”
MPs Rudy Indarsingh, Saddam Hosein, Rishi Seecheran, Arnold Ram, Rushton Paray, Michelle Benjamin and Ravi Ratiram also said they supported Persad-Bissessar.
MPs Dinesh Rambally, Anita Haynes, Rai Ragbir, Vandana Mohit, Kadijah Ameen didn’t answer calls.