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Dr Suruj Rambachan

United National Congress stalwarts Dr Suruj Rambachan and Dr Tim Gopeesingh are defending party leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar against social media calls that she steps down in the wake of her latest defeat in the 2020 General Election.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Gopeesingh questioned who exactly was calling for Persad-Bissessar to leave the party.

“There is one leader in the party and that is Kamla Persad-Bissessar,” Gopeesingh said.

Gopeesingh said he was “very proud” of the campaign and the energy that Persad-Bissessar gave to the campaign trail in the past few weeks.

“She ran a magnificent campaign, she worked hard,” he said.

Gopeesingh said unlike Persad-Bissessar, People’s National Movement leader Dr Keith Rowley focused on race and ethnicity during his campaign.

“I am very disappointed that he ran that type of campaign in the last four or five days where he focused on some banana advertisement of his own creation,” Gopeesingh said.

He was referring to an advertisement attributed to the UNC days before the election which, in part, showed an impoverished woman begging a couple for food and being given a hand of yellow bananas.

The ad received harsh criticism from Rowley for promoting a racist agenda and “humiliating” Afro-Trinidadians.

Gopeesingh also questioned the low turnout of voters.

“According to the information we have at hand, we have approximately 380,000 voters. That’s a lower turnout than we have for a local government election.

“We need to ask why, when we are accustomed to an almost 750,000 or 800,000 voters,” Gopeesingh said.

He also said the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) needed to revise the fundamentals of the election process.

“How can you have almost the whole of Trinidad in yellow but the East/West corridor alone earns the PNM a victory?” he asked.

Rambachan also denied there was any leadership crisis in the party.

During a virtual campaign on August 3, Rambachan had endorsed Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal as the party’s next leader.

Yesterday, however, he said there is currently no leadership crisis or calls for Persad-Bissessar to step down within the party.

“The UNC has improved its standing not only by winning one more seat but by narrowing the margins the PNM had in seats like St Joseph, La Horquetta and San Fernando West,” Rambachan said.

He also defended Persad-Bissessar’s succession planning methods, saying she had already brought in new and young faces.

“Mrs Bissessar has already indicated that she is the process of ushering a new generation of leaders and in this regard, she made brave changes to the line-up of candidates,” he said.

“I do believe that she will undertake her own assessment of what she wants to do and where she wants to be over the next few years.

This election was part of a new normal.”

Rambachan said that the UNC lost the election “not because of its policy positions but more because of propaganda”.

“The country still needs to know, for example, how we are going to pay the 120 billion in debts created by the PNM. The people want jobs and food on their tables. The government cannot keep drawing down on the HSF,” he said.

“It will be depleted. The criticism remains that the PNM does not have a plan. The people voted as their freedom allowed them but are they free?”

Rambachan said it was worrying that both sides had lower winning votes in safe seats, as it showed people were getting disenchanted with the offerings. He suggested candidates Sean Sobers, Ahloy Hunt and Jearlean John be made senators.

But Hunt yesterday had no comment on the planned St Joseph recount.

He said while he remained a lifetime UNC member, he was out of representational politics and is devoting time to his daughter.