Some United National Congress members are moving to seek change in the party—again.
A motion was filed yesterday to mount a call at Sunday’s National Congress to bring back all former, inactive and “parked up” members and to get a stronger national executive than the current management team.
The motion was filed by UNC life members, MPs Dr Fuad Khan and Ramona Ramdial. It is being supported by other UNC stalwarts, including attorney Larry Lalla.
Their letter to UNC general secretary Peter Khan calls for the motion to be approved for debate at the Congress, “as it speaks to the survival of our party and the readiness to return to government.”
The Congress will be at the Couva South Hall.
The motion arrived following last Friday’s Electoral College vote on a President, where Government’s 38 parliamentarians, nine independent Senators and the House Speaker’s vote gave Government’s nominee, Christine Kangaloo, a winning total of 48 votes.
But out of the total of 25 Opposition parliamentarians (19 MPs and six Senators), UNC nominee Israel Khan, SC, received 22 votes and there were three spoiled ballots.
The division and bucking of the party line by the three MPs has been seen as an indictment on Opposition UNC Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s leadership.
Persad-Bissessar retained the leadership in UNC’s internal elections last July, in a race with Fuad Khan. She obtained 11,554 votes and Khan, 644.
The motion filed by Khan and Ramdial stated whereas:
• UNC hasn’t been able to achieve electoral success in the past seven years since 2015
• Many members, former past members, former executive, founding members have all been inactive in the party’s forward strategy; and the party can benefit from their experience
• The coalition of parties in 2010 was able to win Government
Be it resolved that:
• The leadership consisting of the political leader and the National Executive (Nat-Ex), find a method of approach to communicate and embrace the forementioned groups of previous experienced members and well-wishers
• Failure to develop such a plan within three months should result in a new internal election for a Nat-Ex WITHOUT the position of political leader being contested.
The motion listed other conditions for such an election.
Contacted yesterday, Khan told the T&T Guardian, “This isn’t an attack on the political leader. Apart from the call to return members, it’s largely a method to change the structure of voting to get a stronger institution. All Nat-Ex officers are from the leader’s slate. But things aren’t going anywhere and there’s general election in two and half years, we need to put things in place.
“The three spoilt ballots showed some people were dissatisfied with both PNM and UNC’s nominees for President. But it magnifies the need for a different approach.”
Khan added, “A Congress is designed to place a party on a forward projection with ideas that are innovative, that when used will make a difference in political success. UNC’s Nat-Ex has an overall responsibility to members, not to just prop up a leader.
“I’m suggesting a way forward to develop a different approach, that, if accepted, will thrust the party into winning 2025 general election. I hope the Nat-Ex and leader understands the strategy. I hope good sense prevails and it’ll be debated. A number of other UNC members are glad it’s being done.”
If the motion isn’t debated, Khan said he’ll keep plugging the issue.
“The UNC needs changes. We must get a change if more and more members seek this…”
Party needs urgent change – Lalla
Lalla meanwhile said he’d like to address the Congress to explain his view about the party’s failings.
He cited the party’s handling of the vote on the President, on the Police Commissioner’s merit list and the Vincent Nelson indemnity issue.
“We need to build a credible opposition to meet the national community’s hopes and aspirations. I feel the three spoilt ballots were intentional to send a message of dissatisfaction to the leader. I’m pleading for urgent change in how UNC approaches national politics,” Lalla said.
“We hope members will be allowed free and frank discussions on the issue. One would expect the same democracy the UNC talks about in Parliament will be treasured and respected in the Congress’ conduct.”
Lalla urged all former/inactive UNC members to attend and “let their voices be heard, as at this point of T&T’s history, a strong united Opposition’s needed. It’s time to love again, provided the conditions in the ‘home’ are conducive.”
Ramdial anticipated their motion- being vetted for approval – will be rejected by the leadership.
“But the majority of members believe the time is right for unity within the party, since we’re in mid-term and Local Government polls are due soon.
“With unification experienced, members who can add value and knowledge to rebuilding UNC will return. UNC’s in dire need of new political strategies and an aggressive membership drive to start rebranding and regrouping.”
Some UNC officials yesterday said the party always calls for groups to unite with the UNC and “the door is open.” However, they felt the motion might camouflage a “takeover” bid for the party.
UNC deputy leaders Roodal Moonilal, David Lee and Jearlean John, and general secretary Peter Kanhai, didn’t respond to T&T Guardian queries on Khan’s motion, or on another (unsigned) motion on social media which called for Persad-Bissessar to step down and for internal elections for a new leader by April.
The document stated this was necessary, since the UNC needs to put itself in a position to win the next general election and the “current leadership has made too many errors in its political judgement and is unlikely to beat the PNM.”
It further stated the UNC “continues to loose (sic) valued supporters and members, with some of them now being part of the PNM. The current image of the party is no longer attractive to floating voters and we must take decisions with new, fresh leadership to give the party a more attractive image.”