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Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial arrives at the United National Congress screening for General Election candidates at the M Rampersad Building in San Fernando last month. Ravi Ratiram eventually got the nod as the candidate.

Gail Alexander

While there are concerns by Couva North constituents about the UNC’s replacement for MP Ramona Ramdial, the area’s executive is working with new candidate Ravi Ratiram.

However, they say some reason should have been given on why Ramdial wasn’t selected.

Couva North executive chairman Orlando Nagessar aired this opinion yesterday after the unit began working with Ratiram.

Concerns had been swirling some UNC constituencies since last Sunday’s announcement of the Opposition’s election candidates for the August 10 general election.

Of the 18 incumbent MPs, eight were retained and 10 replaced.

Some were asked to step down. Some were promised a place in a future UNC Government.

But complaints were expressed in Cumuto -Manzanilla, Couva North, Caroni Central and Chaguanas East, whose MPs were replaced.

A social media petition seeking removal of the Couva North candidate was mounted by one Couva North woman.

There are also concerns about queries raised by PNM ministers during 2015 elections about Ratiram who was the UNC’s Point Fortin candidate then.

Couva North’s Nagessar said his executive was aware of constituents’ concerns on the loss of Ramdial. He said after the announcement of Ramdial’s removal, the unit, noting constituents’ outcry, wrote a letter to the leadership on this and delivered it to the San Fernando office. He said no-one knew why she was removed.

“We sought some word as many people were very disappointed. Ramona has very good relations with this area,” he added.

Nagessar said his group waited and the UNC’s chairman Peter Kanhai came out and spoke to them.

“We were told to trust the leader, she knew what she was doing and not only Ramona was changed, but other people also.”

“So we’ve said the party is bigger than anyone else and if that’s the leader’s decision….well…we still feel disappointed but if that’s her decision. We’ll work with (Ratiram) to ensure Couva North remains UNC. We had a long meeting with him Monday and pledged support.”

Other Couva North officials at the meeting mentioned they were disappointed but would abide by the leader’s decision.

Nagessar said Ramdial was disappointed but has met Ratiram and wished everyone well. He said a few people may withhold votes but others would vote.

“Ramona had a plan for the area going forward, we await the new plan,” he said.

Concerns on Cumuto candidate

On another new candidate, Cumuto’s Rai Ragbir, the UNC’s Suruj Rambachan said there had been resolution of alleged issues in 2012 concerning the CEO of state-owned Community Improvement Services Ltd (CISL). That company was chaired by Rabgir. An Express article had alleged Ragbir and then Local Government Minister Chandresh Sharma “made no effort to act ”on information they’d received regarding allegations of improper conduct against the-then CISL official.

Rambachan, then a minister, had (in the article) promised to look into CISL’s governance issues and admitted breaches occurred related to certain issues.

Rambachan was to have gotten a report from Ragbir.

Yesterday, Rambachan said that situation had been resolved.

On Ragbir’s candidacy, Rambachan said he assumed the leadership would have done their background checks “as is required of them.”

Ragbir is due to begin walking Cumuto soon but some constituents and groups are still concerned. Blue Mountain Waters owner Prem Badaloo said, “I fully support the MP (Christine Newallo-Hosein). She has a fantastic relationship with constituents. She’s there for weddings, funerals, you name it. She’s quite a favourite. Another MP won’t have made the time the way she’s done for people.’’

“I don’t know the new candidate or his abilities. I hope the party doesn’t just depend on the area as ‘safe’ support but also provides good representation.“

UNC party officials admitted there are also continuing mixed feelings about new Caroni Central candidate Arnold Ram, who met the executive on Monday and also with Chaguanas East’s Vandana Mohit.

Outgoing incumbent Fazal Karim said yesterday he was advised by the leadership to assist the campaign “which I’ve agreed to do”.

“There’s been no reply to calls to other MPs on whether they‘re also walking,” he said.