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Ricardo Mohammed

Gail Alexander

Former Sangre Grande Chamber president Ricardo Mohammed is a frontrunner among the large number of UNC nominees seeking to be UNC’s Toco/Sangre Grande candidate, UNC officials said yesterday.

Mohammed a well-known businessman in the area confirmed he’s offered himself for nomination, but declined further queries.

Senior UNC officials said “plenty” people offered themselves for nomination for that seat, so much so that screening for some Toco/Sangre Grande nominees has already been done and screening for others is coming up.

Among the reported 19-odd nominees are activists from Matura and other parts of the constituency including a female banker whose father heads a UNC party group, they added.

Chairman of UNC-controlled Sangre Grande Regional Corporation Anil Juteram confirmed yesterday that he’s been approached for nomination not only for Toco/Sangre Grande but also Cumuto/Manzanilla. Guardian Media confirmed there’s support for him in polling divisions of both areas.

But Juteram, undecided, said, “I’ve grown up with old fashioned values and I’ve now started as Corporation chairman. I wouldn’t want to just jump and go after another post when we‘ve started a lot of work here.’’

Freelance photojournalist and former educator Ralph Banwarie said he filed nomination for Toco/Sangre Grande and was screened among 12 other nominees on June 2.

“People approached me for nomination and I felt compelled since there’s poor representation, unemployment and bad use of state resources,’’ he said.

Toco/Sangre Grande, which is currently held by the PNM, is among the handful of battleground marginal seats the UNC is targetting. The UNC won the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation in Local Government polls six months ago.

The UNC continues screening today for 12 seats held by UNC incumbents in Caroni Central, Chaguanas East and West, Couva North and South, Oropouche East and West, Mayaro, San Juan/Barataria and St Augustine.

While National Security Minister Stuart Young said Tuesday an exemption has been granted for UNC MP Barry Padarath to return from Miami (where he’s been since March), UNC PRO Anita Haynes said yesterday the UNC can also screen via Zoom. Padarath didn’t answer calls.

UNC general secretary Dev Tancoo is expected to be among UNC nominees being screened for seats including a deep south “safe seat”, officials said.

During the People’s Partnership (PP) administration Tancoo was among those who had worked as an adviser in then-prime minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar’s office.

UNC San Juan-/Barataria incumbent Dr Fuad Khan who’s also being screened today, said, “If I’m not picked, I’ll work with the new candidate to ensure UNC retains the seat.”

So far out of the UNC’s 17 MPs, only David Lee, Lackram Bodoe, Christine Newallo-Hosein and Rodney Charles were screened.

UNC officials said they expect new faces including in Oropouche West (held by Vidya Guyadeen-Gopeesingh), Chaguanas East (Fazal Karim), Couva North (Ramona Ramdial) and Caroni Central (Bhoe Tewarie).

Lawyers, ex-senator, mayor among nominees

Officials tipped Chaguanas mayor Vandana Mohit for Chaguanas East. Nominees there and in Caroni Central include attorneys. A civil attorney from Munroe Road is tipped for Chaguanas West.

Nominees for Fyzabad include a relative of former PP Fyzabad MP Errol McLeod, officials added. Mayaro nominees include incumbent Rushton Paray and chairman of the area’s corporation, they added.

Couva North nominees include a former 2015 candidate and UNC senator who’s a UNC National Executive member. Couva South nominees also include a Tobago-based executive member.

UNC MPs Suruj Rambachan (Tabaquite), Tim Gopeesingh (Caroni East) and Ganga Singh aren’t contesting.

Rambachan’s retiring from politics, Gopeesingh bowed out and Singh had a disagreement with UNC’s leadership on unity among opposition parties.

Party officials said no nomination was received from Opposition St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar. He’s a COP member but COP leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said he hasn’t attended COP gatherings. Ramadhar didn’t answer calls on his direction and on if he’d spoken to Persad- Bissessar.

Apart from Toco/Sangre Grande, the UNC has set its political sights on St Joseph with Ahloy Hunt, Moruga (Michelle Benjamin), Tunapuna (David Nakhid) and San Fernando West (Sean Sobers).