PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar predictably won the leadership of the United National Congress (UNC) here on Sunday after Vasant Bharat, considered her main challenger had earlier this month announced that he was no longer contesting the leadership if the party.
According to the preliminary results released Monday by the party’s election management committee, Persad Bissessar, who sought a fresh mandate from the party supporters even though she still had at least one year on her position as party leader, received 20, 328 votes.
She easily defeated legislator and former government minister Christine Newallo Hosein, who polled 114 votes, while Chanda Bhaggan received a mere 45 votes.
Bharat had withdrawn from the race after telling a news conference that the election process was flawed and because of the illegality of the election any UNC member can challenge the results in a court of law. The former minister in the Persad Bissessar coalition People’s Partnership government had also called for the resignation of the UNC’s Elections Management Committee, accusing the members of showing open bias towards the former prime minister.
Another opposition legislator, Ganga Singh, had also questioned whether Persad Bissessar was in breach of the UNC’s constitution by seeking re-election ahead of time.
UNC founder and former leader Basdeo Panday had also criticised Persad Bissessar saying she is breaching the UNC’s constitution.
Persad Bissessar, who was at the helm of the UNC when it lost the 2015 general election to the People’s National Movement (PNM) said she felt confident that her team of new faces and those with experience will be able to come to put the party on a road to victory.
In a clearly jubilant mood after winning re-election, she thanked the thousands of party members for exercising their democratic right to vote in the internal election in a peaceful manner, saying the past two years, despite the party’s not being in government, had “empowered” its membership to work harder.
“Tonight we have this victory. This is not the end. This is in fact the beginning of the journey to take us to return to government. So we have a task ahead and we can only do it united together,” she said. “Once we are united, we will win. The government has collapsed on itself, but that does not mean that we win – we will only win when we are united.”
As for her immediate plans, she said this would include her annual Christmas toy drive in her Siparia constituency while the new year would witness her drive to rebuild the party.
“Many people wanted to come on the team and the slate. I want to say this to you tonight: you are not left out. Early in the new year we will convene a meeting of all the persons who wanted to serve, because everyone cannot be an MP, everyone can’t be a Senator or a councillor. But we will place campaign teams to carry us on the journey forward. So all those who are willing, I am willing, ready and able,” she said. (CMC and TRINIDAD NEWSDAY)