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Raffique Shah


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The party's over

By Raffique Shah
November 2, 2015

Choosing a leader to take the United National Congress forward, backward, sideways, or keep it stagnated, is the business of members of the party.

It is not for me, who never belonged to any party other than the original United Labour Front, and that very briefly, to tell UNC members who they should elect as their leader, the way frontline members of the UNC openly lobbied for Penny Beckles over Keith Rowley during the internal elections in the People's National Movement in May 2014.

In retrospect, perhaps because the UNC openly promoted Penny, she not only lost the leadership battle, but also her credibility as a loyal PNMite, a thrashing from which the affable one-time Arima MP has not recovered.

So outsiders intervening in the internal affairs of political parties is never a good thing.

Still, because the UNC under incumbent leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar won a landslide victory at the polls in 2010, wielded power for five years, and today remains a potent opposition with 18 seats, its affairs must be subjected to public scrutiny, hence my observations.

My innate feelings in the aftermath of the party's defeat in the September 7 election were firstly, its leaders and supporters were in shock, and secondly, once reality hit home and its bombastic front-liners and cheerleaders realised they no longer controlled the Treasury, they would turn against each other like alley cats or rabid mongrels fighting over scraps.

What I did not anticipate was that Kamla, as leader, having postponed internal elections for political leader and a new executive for almost three years, would choose a most inauspicious time to call them.

Maybe unlike when she held power and was always "advised", she now has no one to turn to, hence the humongous mistake.

Hey, 340,000 supporters are still licking their wounds, casting blame for being booted into the political wilderness, and you put your fractured crown up for the grab?

Many supporters believe that the PNM was in cahoots with the Elections and Boundaries Commission, and stole the elections in the extra hour voting the EBC allowed.

This is the same EBC that presided over the 2010 general election that the UNC/PP won, the local government elections that followed which the PP swept, and even the 2009 Tobago House of Assembly election which saw the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) emerge as a potent force that would add to the PP's strength in 2010.

That issue is before the courts, so I shan't dwell on it. But I find it strange that the EBC's integrity was not challenged when the PP won, only when it lost.

So the party faithful are nursing their wounds and Kamla calls elections: she must be mad!

Not that she will lose, although that prospect hovers over any election. She is likely to retain leadership, albeit without acclamation, and that only because her opponents are so...unattractive.

"Stink mout" Roodal Moonilal, the only person to have declared his hand thus far, does not even command the "Indian vote", far less the non-Indian electors who belong to no party, but whose votes and influence decide who govern the country.

Vasant Bharath has some cross-border appeal, but he is too timid to engage in the mud wrestling or cage fights that will characterise the elections.

The others have all surrendered their manhood or womanhood to Maha Kamla, proclaiming her as the earthly embodiment of a supreme deity, a leader who is infallible.

Her far too many missteps and mistakes when she wielded power were all condoned by them. No one questioned her hiring of misfits or firing the faithful. As recently as in the run-up to the September general election, when she foisted wholly unsuitable candidates in key constituencies, they applauded.

So what, you are now coming to tell us that she was wrong on numerous counts? When did you make these startling discoveries? Last night? Gimme a break!

The UNC sycophants have always been the party's undertakers-in-waiting, wearing their funereal garb even as they celebrated the occasional wedding-in 1986, 1995, 2000 and 2010.

They, who point accusatory fingers at PNMites who worshipped Dr Eric Williams as a demigod, sanctified their own supreme leaders in Basdeo Panday and Kamla.

The irony of it all is that Bas, before whom no damn dog dared to bark, is now accusing his protégé of having dictatorial tendencies. What a laugh!

If I may sum up the UNC's dilemma, the party is now in the self-destruct mode, matters not whether Kamla or Moonilal or Padarath takes the helm.

The in-fighting that will occur during the campaign will the worst ever in its history, and will leave behind a carcass for vultures.

The party's over, people.

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