|File: Former UNC Chairman Jack Warner with the party's acting chair, Deputy Chair Khadijah Ameen|
There is a vacant seat in Parliament for the Chaguanas West Constituency following the resignation on April 26 of Jack Warner who was elected the UNC member in the 2010 general election.
Speaker Wade Mark declared the seat of Chaguanas West vacant at Friday's sitting of the House of Representatives. He read Warner's resignation, which he received on April 26.
Mark made reference to Section 69 (30) of the Constitution, which states: “Where a vacancy occurs in the House of Representatives within the first four years of the life of the Parliament a by-election shall be held to fill such vacancy not later than 90 days from the date of the announcement by the Speaker of the vacancy.”
He then announced the vacancy: “In view of the foregoing, I hereby declare the seat of Chaguanas West vacant.” It means the election must be held not later than August 9.
Chaguanas West is a UNC stronghold. Warner was first elected there in the 2007 general election when he defeated Manohar Ramsarran, the COP candidate. Ramsarran was elected as UNC candidate but switched loyalties.
Other MPs who switched loyalties have also been defeated by the UNC. Winston Dookeran was originally elected as a NAR candidate with the blessing of Basdeo Panday but when he opposed Panday and the newly formed UNC in 1991 he was soundly beaten by the UNC's Hulsie Bhaggan. When Bhaggan drew political swords with Panday and the UNC, Ramsarran came into the picture and defeated Bhaggan, then later suffered the same fate at the hands of Warner.
Now Warner finds himself in a situation where he is not sure if he would get the UNC nomination or whether he would oppose a candidate of his own party.
The political leader of the UNC, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has said every member of the party is free to seek the nomination. And that includes Warner. For his part Warner is optimistic that he would get the OK to contest the seat for the UNC. However he has not said if he would run against the UNC candidate if he is not selected. His comment on that is that he would leave all options open.
If Warner does not get the nomination and chooses to run against the nominee of his own party he faces expulsion from the UNC.
The recent history of that constituency shows that people are loyal to their party and on three occasions ousted the person who was opposed to the UNC. However there is precedent for an independent to win.
In a 1968 by-election Bhadase Maraj won the Chagunas seat as an independent when the opposition DLP, which held the seat, refused to field a candidate in the election.
Warner was present in the public gallery to hear Mark's declaration. When he arrived in the Parliament building several PP members greeted him and he hugged Fyzabad MP Chandresh Sharma. "We're all UNC," he told reporters.
Warner deflected a question on whether he thought Sharma was a part of a "cabal" that is opposed to him. "We’re in a UNC family and I have no intention of attacking anybody save possibly the one who I said was deserving of it.”