After blocking Prime Minister Patrick Manning from his yard recently, St Joseph resident Percy Villafana has been invited to attend tomorrow's "Voice of the People" rally being held by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. But Villafana said yesterday that he was uncertain, and yet to decide if he would accept the invitation which he has received.
Persad-Bissessar is hosting a rally titled "Voice of the People" at Saith Park in Chaguanas tomorrow to mobilise forces opposed to the PNM Government on various national issues. Last week Monday, Villafana, 81, blocked Manning from his yard during Manning's walkabout in St Joseph. Villafana, a retired Agriculture Ministry employee, complained bitterly about the Government. He said he had been a staunch PNM supporter until the last couple elections and was now a supporter of "change." He also spends time with family in Canada. Yesterday, Villafana said that a few days ago, someone from the organising committee of Persad-Bissessar's rally had extended to him an invitation to attend. However, Villafana said: "I'm still undecided whether I will go or not. If I do go, it will be a last-minute decision and I will be among the crowd and not on anyone's platform. "I do not want to be affiliated to any political group...I do not want to give the impression to Manning or anyone that what I did recently (blocking Manning from the gate) was a political act on behalf of any party," he said. Sounding a bit weary with the situation, Villafana added: "I don't want to give the impression that I'm a supporter of a group and that was why I blocked the Prime Minister. "It had nothing to do with any party...So I don't want to give the impression that this household is attached to any party," he said.
Yesterday, COP leader Winston Dookeran said his party had informed the UNC that COP deputy leader Wendy Lee Yuen would attend Persad-Bissessar's rally on COP's behalf. Dookeran leaves T&T tomorrow for a two-week lecture tour of five universities in India. He said he was also meeting UNC leader Persad-Bissessar at 3 pm today to discuss the issues affecting T&T and other matters. UNC officials said talks may include UNC/COP unity talks. UNC MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh said the UNC had invited to the rally, more than 500 non-governmental organisations, trade unions and business sector groups, as well as political parties. Gopeesingh said there has been a good response. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people were expected, he added. A cross-section of union leaders have agreed to attend, Gopeesingh confirmed. "Each organisation will be bringing their people and we have mobilised UNC supporters and citizens from throughout T&T to attend," he said. "We've gone around constituencies calling on the public as well as UNC's 45,000 members to attend and we're making transport arrangements to assist those who want to come to the rally." Other UNC officials said those expected to speak included Fitun's David Abdulah, OWTU president general Ancel Roget, NAR leader Carson Charles, DPTT leader Steve Alvarez and activist Stephen Cadiz.
Yesterday, Cadiz said: "I'll be speaking. I attended all the events supportive of civic society. We're very interested in seeing where the politics is going so we're supportive of positive changes in the system whereby civic society can play a bigger role." But DNA leader Kirk Meighoo said he would not be attending. Meighoo was one of the first persons who joined with Persad-Bissessar when the UNC began exploring unity in 2007. Meighoo said: "We don't support some of the people associated with the platform on Saturday. Our politics stands for justice for the people and we cannot compromise with those who continue to oppress the people. We stand for what is right." UNC officials said T&T Chamber president Angela Persad declined to attend because of a previous engagement. Persad-Bissessar meets with the various confirmed speakers at a luncheon at Kapok today. UNC vice-chairman Fuad Khan said: "We're coming together to ensure T&T moves ahead."