Sunday, June 23, 2013

Commentary: Chaguanas West is big UNC headache

The battle for Chaguanas West is finally on with the People's National Movement nominating a 24-year-old agriculturalist to fight whoever the People's Partnership presents to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Jack Warner.
Avinash Singh

But even as young Avinash Singh was accepting his assignment with optimism and enthusiasm the chairman of the PNM was saying on radio he knows the party would lose the seat. 

In other words, they put a kid to run as a sacrificial lamb to demonstrate that it is a national party and would field candidates whenever and wherever an election is held. That is an important statement about the PNM and its fitness to govern.

So it looks at this moment that it would be the PP vs the PNM in Chaguanas West since the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) has chickened out of the first opportunity it had to test its strength as a political party.

The partnership has decided that it would follow the pattern of 2010 and have a single candidate from one of its member organisations. And since the seat was UNC it is logical to conclude that the candidate who would face off against the PNM would be one selected by the UNC.
Jack Warner at a campaign stop in Felicity
Jack Warner expects that his party would nominate him because of his track record in the constituency even before he was first elected as the MP in the 2007 general election. Of course there would have never been an election in Chaguanas West if Jack had not resigned.

So the dilemma facing the UNC is whether it should accept or reject Jack.

The political leader announced on Monday night that nominations for the seat would close at 4 p.m. on Friday and made the point that every member of the party including Warner is entitled to seek the nomination. 
UNC Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar: "We are a disciplined party".
Kamla Persad-Bissessar also said the party would make its decision based on the established rules and its constitution. "We are a disciplined party," she told supporters in Felicity Monday night. She urged the UNC to ensure that the seat remains UNC. "As long as we remain one nothing will stop us. Don't put yourselves in opposition again," she said.

She noted that the development and progress in the constituency has come because the UNC is in government. And the leader promised that all the good work would continue after the election. 

Earlier in the meeting Deputy Leader Roodal Moonilal showed a list containing the names of hundreds who would be getting their legal title to lands that were denied them by the previous administration. And it would happen before the election on July 29, he promised.

All this looks like the safe Chaguanas West seat would remain UNC. However the question that everyone is asking, including "UNC til ah ded" supporters, is who will be the candidate. 

Media reports are suggesting that the decision has been made and the candidate would be a prominent pandit from Charlieville, although the pandit has confirmed only that he is seeking the nomination just like Warner and other UNC members. So contrary to the online chatter, there is no UNC candidate yet.

If Warner doesn't get the nomination it could then truly be a war between two sides of the same family. Perhaps the kind of battle that took place on the sacred battlefield of Kurukshetra in the Bhagwavgita that put members of one family against one another in two opposing armies fighting to protect what is right.

The central message of the Gita is that defending what is right is more important that emotional connections to family.

Jack has not said what would happen if he does not get the nomination. But he has been campaigning vigorously since he resigned in April and he insists that he will get his party's nomination. 

If that happens, the result is already determined. If not, would Jack run as an independent? He has not said yes or no but every indication is that he would. The word on the ground is that people still support him and that he could win even if he runs as an independent

But he could surprise everyone and endorse the UNC candidate and campaign for the UNC as he has always done. He has always insisted that he has no strife with his leader, PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar, insisting that she is the best leader the country has ever had and that no one would be able to fill her shoes for a long time to come.

But if he decides to fight a member of his own party then his credibility would be at stake. What would be his argument for going against everything for which his party stands for? 

He could say the party has lost its moorings and is now influenced by people who don't have the national interest at heart. But that would be seen as a contradiction since for the past three years he has worked with that same team and has praised the government and individual members every step of the way.

For the UNC it would have to deal with the flip side of that same coin. Jack was the UNC chairman, a senior cabinet minister and for three years the PM and the cabinet embraced and praised him. 

While there may be valid justification for distancing themselves from him today they would have difficulty convincing the electorate that after three years of being an insider he is now not fit to represent the UNC in Chaguanas West. Being in cabinet is something that is no interest to him, he told a reporter this week.

So Chaguanas West, which used to be a jewel in the UNC crown, has all of a sudden become the party's biggest headache. The party has just a few days to deal with the matter and it would take more than two aspirins for that headache to go away.

Jack could offer the cure. After all, he has always said he is "UNC to the bone". He can once more forget personalities and see the big picture, a canvas in which Trinidad and Tobago would continue to enjoy a secure future under the leadership of Kamla.

If I were Jack Warner I would seriously consider leaving electoral politics to the politicians and continue to serve the people in the compassionate and humanitarian way he did before he became the MP in 2007. That would allow him to achieve two important things: service to the people and some well-earned peace and quiet. 

In addition, he would be remembered as a patriot and a statesman.

Jai Parasram

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai