HOURS after Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced her party's internal elections for all positions on June 26, two of her critics, former ministers Devant Maharaj and Vasant Bharath have cried foul.
Both have said the upcoming internal poll would violate the UNC's constitution with Maharaj calling the exercise a "sham."
During the party’s joint parliamentary arm and national congress meeting at Couva on Saturday, Persad-Bissessar explained that, at the UNC's executive meeting on Friday, pursuant to section 12 (V) of its constitution, she asked that the UNC internal election be held on June 26, 2022 instead of November when it is constitutionally due. The date was brought forward in order to prepare for the Local Government Elections also due later this year.
In a statement on Sunday, Maharaj said, “The announcement by the UNC political leader for life, Kamla Persad Bissessar, of an internal election is another nail in the coffin of the UNC as it, yet again, violates the UNC Constitution.”
According to the party's constitution, he said, the post of political leader and the national executive must be considered separately. He recalled former minister Ganga Singh being "politically ostracised" when he first raised an alarm “about this abuse of power" in 2017.
“Only a constitutional amendment via a national assembly could sanction such a change and not a parliamentary arm meeting which is what was held on Saturday.”
Maharaj submitted that this is the third occasion in which the leadership of Persad-Bissessar had shown contempt and disregard for the UNC's constitution in order to facilitate a sham election.
“This internal election will cement Kamla's stewardship of the continued demise of the UNC in Opposition and the continued rewarding of blind, incompetent loyalists in the Senate and House of Representatives.
“At almost 70 years old and having lost successive elections against the PNM, Kamla has the unmitigated shame to speak of young people and democracy existing within the UNC. Young people are only welcomed if they are unquestioning of Kamla and democracy only exists if there is no challenge to Kamla.”
Maharaj, like Bharath, contested UNC leadership during the party's the last internal elections but later withdrew. He alleged “a naked manipulation of the UNC voter list, an intimidation of potential candidates, and other obvious irregularities,” as reasons for his withdrawal.
He said the elections committee appeared to be a rubber stamp of the incumbent office holders, ignoring appeals to intervene.
Maharaj's statement continued, “While Vasant did not withdraw, he was subjected to the most crass and vulgar attacks by the UNC merely because he chose to participate in the democratic process of the party.
“The right-thinking, professional, educated, hard-working taxpayer can see that there is no hope in the UNC under the present leadership. One only has to examine the UNC's handling of the property tax issue to realise that there is no strategic leadership direction, only leadership by social media selfies and one-liner sound bites."
Maharaj said the continued "perversion" of the UNC’s constitution would only ensure that the PNM remains in office for another ten years at least.
Neither of the men committed to a June 26 challenge, but Bharath, in a Facebook post, wrote, “I refuse to legitimise a corrupt and undemocratic process but I remain resolutely committed to the loyal and hardworking supporters of UNC and to the founding principles of the UNC, one of which is ‘to struggle against any tendency towards authoritarianism, autocracy and dictatorship and to promote a viable diffusion of centres of power and decision-making as a check against the concentration and abuse of power.”
Bharath lamented, “Our great party has become a cult and a plaything for Kamla Persad-Bissessar, with big men and women fawning at her feet for positions of supposed power.
“One would have thought, that with the destruction and mayhem taking place under the watch of the PNM, the opportunity would have been grabbed with both hands to give hope to a burdened and frustrated population and to restore and rebuild credibility and confidence in an organisation that she has led to 13 successive national defeats.
“Instead, Mrs Bissessar continues to erode and trample on the constitution of the only party that has a chance of removing the PNM.”