Leadership challenger Vasant Bharath says the United National Congress needs to change its leadership or it will face 20 more years in opposition.
The Parliamentary Opposition also hasn’t stood up to the People’s National Movement Government, including on pressing national issues such as the recent cutting of education funding, he added at a meeting last night where he launched his slate for the December 6 internal elections.
“This election is about one cold fact: Who could best position the UNC to return to government, where it rightfully belongs. It’s about government in five years or less or opposition for the next 20,” Bharath said.
“You must make the change, as you did in 2009 (changing the Panday leadership), a change that led to an overwhelming victory at the polls. That time is here again, when we must summon up the courage to do the right thing.”
He added,”While progressive governments are deepening investments in education, this useless, inefficient PNM has slashed its spending in this sector and closed four important UTT campuses. At the same time, PNM’s dishing out more than $1 billion in funding to URP and CEPEP – clear indication of this Government’s twisted focus and priorities.
“The major reduction in GATE funding is irrational, short-sighted and reckless and threatens to exclude many bright students who are unable to pay for advanced tertiary education. Developed and developing countries are spending more on education to make their societies more educated and qualified – in T&T we’re doing the opposite!”
He said many studies show a lack of access to education invariably leads to lack of opportunity and subsequent crime and criminal activity. But he said as crime increases, Government will tomorrow seek a 30-month extension for the Anti-Gang legislation which hasn’t rooted out gangsters.
And he called on the Prime Minister to apologise to Janelle Penny Commissiong for the poor state of Queen Street – which now bears her name – after the PM’s remarks that the street is “the official toilet of Port-of-Spain.”
Bharath said, “He should be ashamed! Port-of-Spain has a PNM Mayor and is represented in Parliament by PNM.”
He said amidst the pressing national issues, the Opposition has more or less been silent, save for a media conference and Monday Night Forum.
“Is this enough to make PNM uncomfortable or unseat them? Instead of confronting PNM, a large part of the forum was spent attacking our campaign. UNC is making no impact against a repressive, autocratic and dangerously incompetent Government.
“The PNM is doing literally as it wants, knowing full well it would escape Opposition scrutiny and will not be called upon to account. In no modern democracy, with an efficient opposition, would a government be permitted to callously slash its investment in education. In many countries, there would be public protests.”
He said the party should be grateful for Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s leadership and her stewardship of government for five years.
However, he added, “We must acknowledge she no longer displays the tenacity, stamina and will to effectively challenge an authoritarian government. She hasn’t unveiled fresh vision that will excite the party and attract the national community.
“Retirement’s inevitable for everyone. Brian Lara had to do so after an illustrious career. So, too, Curtley Ambrose, Michael Holding, Sachin Tendulkar, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Pele and even one day Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachan.
“We must thank her for her service and assure her that her legacy will be well secured but she must understand her continued insistence to remain at UNC’s helm can only lead to defeat and failure at electoral polls and continued disappointment for supporters.” Bharath said some constituency executives are being forced to issue statements supporting her.
“Some are signing against their will. Many refused! They’re quietly reaching out to us and apologising,” he said.
The Vasant Bharath’s slate includes educator/author Dr Ramchand Rampersad contesting the post of Education officer. Campaign officials said he’s the brother of political analyst Dr Indira Rampersad, who’s on the UNC’s Elections Management committee.
Deputy leader candidates are former Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial, former Office of Disaster Preparedness Management head and surgeon Dr Stephen Ramroop and well-known businessman Joe Pires (Caribbean Chemicals head).
Attorneys on the slate are Larry Lalla (for chairman), Nazma Ali-Knox (research officer) and Kamini Ramraj (elections officer), plus retired police sergeant Chunilal Bedassie (for policy/strategy officer).
Candidates include defeated UNC Lopinot Bon air general election candidate Prakash Williams, a retired school principal (party organiser) and UNC general election nominee and chef Jason Peru (Northwestern co-ordinator)
Other candidates are:
Deputy chairman – (businessman) Hershael Ramesar
Treasurer – (businessman) Winston Siriram.
Policy/Strategy officer – Chunilal Bedassie
International Relations officer – (South businessman/playwright) Joey Harrynanan
North Eastern co-ordinator – (hair stylist) Candice Mohan
Central coordinator – Andrew Mungal.
Southern co-ordinator – businessman Anil Ramjit.
Tobago Co-ordinator – (radio show host) Barrington “Skippy” Thomas.
Skippy slams Wade Mark
Team Bharath candidate Barrington “Skippy” Thomas has called out UNC senator Wade Mark after Mark attacked Vasant Bharath on Monday.
Speaking at a meeting last night, Thomas said, “I advise you from my heart my brother, don’t sell your soul for a senatorial appointment. I call on you to desist from being used by others who wishes to remain sacrosanct but have no difficulty with you doing the job of openly lying on others and defaming others. I know you have it in you to be decent – deep down.”
He also called out UNC MP Michelle Benjamin on “lies” that Vasant Bharath campaigned for the PNM’s Winston Peters. Thomas said he’s a Spiritual Baptist like Benjamin and lies weren’t part of their teachings.
He also said Tobago House of Assembly elections shall be announced shortly.
“But where’s our party’s national perspective? It seem as if Tobago has been completely abandoned by a UNC led by sister Kamla. We had in 2001 a membership of over 4,000 in Tobago. I ask sister Kamla and Bheemal “wey dey gorn?”
Thomas, a UNC stalwart, said he became disappointed with UNC’s leader when “she relinquished her leadership responsibilities to Dev Tancoo and others.”
He said she hadn’t cleared the air on whether she’d prepared the election manual while being a candidate in the election.
“The problem is selfishness, the problem is laziness, pettiness, mediocrity, megalomania – in short, Kamla’s resistance to unity. This movement isn’t about displacing sister Kamla, this movement is about rescuing our great party.”
He said the most unpopular Prime Minster now has a free pass to do whatever he wants “as long as Kamla is UNC leader.”