UNC IN and OUT graphic
UNC IN and OUT

United National Congress Oropouche East MP Roodal Moonilal and Princes Town MP Barry Padarath are among eight incumbents who’ve been selected to contest general elections again—but 10 of 18 incumbents have been replaced.

This was confirmed via a press release sent at 9.35 pm Sunday. It listed candidates for 39 areas in T&T as the UNC isn’t contesting all 41 seats. Some 17 candidates were announced previously.

Last Friday after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the August 10 election date, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said all candidates would have been presented yesterday.

The selections were announced following Saturday’s meeting of the leadership—which ended early yesterday morning—and to which 13 incumbents who had filed nominations were summoned and told if they were chosen or not.

In recent weeks, five other Opposition MPs had indicated they weren’t contesting: Tabaquite’s Dr Suruj Rambachan (who retired from politics), Tim Gopeesingh and Fuad Khan (who stepped down), Congress of the People’s Prakash Ramadhar (who didn’t file UNC nomination) and Ganga Singh (who’d disagreed with Persad-Bissessar’s failure to unite opposition parties).

In addition to those five, at last Saturday’s meeting, UNC’s screening team told five MPs they were out.

Dropped from the team were Caroni Central MP Bhoe Tewarie, Chaguanas East’s Fazal Karim, Cumuto/Manzanilla’s Christine Newallo-Hosein, Couva North’s Ramona Ramdial and Oropouche West’s Vidya Guyadeen-Gopeesingh.

UNC officials confirmed the MPs were asked to step down.

UNC’s release yesterday confirmed the following shifts:

• Fuad Khan was replaced by Saddam Hosein

• Ganga Singh was replaced by Dinesh Rambaly.

• Tim Gopeesingh was replaced by Caroni East chairman Dr Rishi Seecharan.

• Suruj Rambachan was replaced by UNC PRO Anita Haynes, whose family is from Piparo

• Prakash Ramadhar was replaced UNC deputy leader Khadijah Ameen.

• Bhoe Tewarie was replaced by Arnold Ram.

• Christine Newallo-Hosein was replaced by Rai Ragbir.

• Fazal Karim was replaced by Chaguans mayor Vandana Mohit.

• Ravi Ratiram replaced Ramona Ramdial in Couva North.

• Vidya Guyadeen-Gopeesingh was replaced by UNC general secretary Devindradath Tancoo.

Incumbents retained were:

Roodal Moonilal (Oropouche East), Rudy Indarsingh (Couva South), David Lee (Pointe-a-Pierre), Rushton Paray (Mayaro), Barry Padarath (Princes Town), Lackram Bodoe (Fyzabad), Rodney Charles (Naparima) and Persad-Bissessar (Siparia).

In the statement, Persad-Bissessar said the mix of skills and resources among the new team was aligned to the UNC’s economic transformation plan.

Some rejected

MPs’ help requested

Along with La Horquetta candidate Jearlean John, several candidates are UNC national executive members: deputy leader David Lee and Khadija Ameen, Devindradath Tancoo, Ravi Ratiram, Arnold Ram and Rai Ragbir. Outgoing MPs hadn’t been Natex members.

The party had to make last-minute changes early yesterday in at least one seat—Cumuto/Manzanilla—where an initial choice, a pharmacist, didn’t want the candidacy and the second choice —a data collection agent—didn’t work out either, UNC officials confirmed.

UNC officials confirmed Persad-Bissessar did ask certain rejected MPs if they’d assist the campaign and offered some senator/ministerial roles in a UNC government.

Several incumbents who weren’t chosen remained mum yesterday. Others said constituents were bombarding them with calls. A couple said they’d support the party and ensure it wins – but declined to be quoted.

One said, “Being out doesn’t mean you’re down …”

Yesterday, MP Padarath said he hadn’t received word on whether he was chosen.

He stressed, “Whether I’m selected or not my support remains firmly for Mrs Persad-Bissessar, whom I’ve supported since 2005 – I’m her number one supporter.’’

Nominees for seats who were unsuccessful were contacted yesterday by party officials who informed them they hadn’t been selected. New candidates will not speak to the media until they’ve had training, a UNC spokesman said yesterday.

Some constituencies angry

The rejections of some UNC incumbents wasn’t met well by some constituents and UNC groups, including in Cumuto/Manzanilla, Chaguanas East, Caroni Central and Couva North.

A lead Caroni Central activist said, “The news was unbelievable that MP (Bhoe) Tewarie was removed. (Sunday) was a sad, sad day, people are upset since he’s loved as a people person. We lost a man of integrity, of accountability and one of the most trusted MPs in T&T history who had an established reputation outside of politics as UWI principal. He was a role model and mentor to youths and counsel for small businesess, the activist, who did not want to be named, said.

“People also worried since they know the tipped replacement and he’s not known to be friendly. There are concerns how he’ll treat ordinary people who need help. We who work for the UNC are 100 per cent sure while PNM won’t win this seat, they may gain some votes. In weeks ahead the leader will see the mistake she’s made.”

In Cumuto/Manzanilla, several people called Guardian Media to complain about the incoming candidate after yesterday’s paper stated Newallo-Hosein was out.

An angry man who said he mobilises for the party said,“We not taking that (new candidate)! They should have consulted ground troops. We didn’t have a good MP before and when we got one (Newallo-Hosein) who actually listened to us – you remove her. They can’t keep dumping people on us just because it’s a ‘safe seat’. Our areas will withhold votes, they’ll have to win with scraping what they get.

He added, “This seat could become marginal, Kamla has to understand to look beyond her small circles.’’

A female caller said she was disappointed in Persad-Bissessar’s selection for that area.

“It’s unfair to just throw us someone the area doesn’t know, who doesn’t know our problems and doesn’t live close by. We could have called the MP at any time and she’d be here. I and my family would have voted person not party – so in this case we’re not voting UNC.”

In Chaguanas East, at least one UNC official said they were “nervous” to see how the situation would evolve since they noted the seat is a marginal one.

“The definition of a seat being marginal is winning it by 3,000 votes. The MP (Karim) won it by 1,424 votes and he’s worked well with our area. So we heard PNM’s Clarence Rambharath was celebrating when the news broke that he was being changed,” the official said.

But in Oropouche West, where changes were expected, the executive chairman said, “This is a safe seat, everybody will support who the leader choose.’’