PORT OF SPAIN — It’s a new day in the politics of the country.
Jack Warner’s green machine trounced Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s UNC in its heartland of Chaguanas West yesterday, shattering all tribal expectations with an impressive victory.
Warner garnered 69 per cent of the votes cast, Ameen 28 per cent and PNM two per cent. The people of Chaguanas West chose Warner’s Independent Liberal Party over an incumbent Government, an action which could undermine the confidence of the People’s Partnership administration.
This is the first time in the country’s history that a truly heartland UNC constituency has deserted the party, signalling a major achievement. It also speaks to a significant shift with unpredictable implications, coming about under the leadership of Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Present at Warner’s victory rally last night was MP Winston “Gypsy” Peters, suggesting that the People’s Partnership could lose its constitution-amending majority (of 27 seats). Peters had stated during the campaign that he remained a UNC MP.
Warner, in his victory address, made it clear that he was looking beyond Chaguanas West to larger things.
“I pledge to work not only for the good of the people of Chaguanas West, but also for the good of the entire country,” he said.
Flanked by some of the personalities who appeared on his platform on a nightly basis, “Uncle Jack” greeted all his “nephews and nieces”.
Warner said he always knew that Chaguanas West, whose “love, loyalty and commitment” he never doubted, would set the tone for the shift in the country’s politics.
“Like David we came up against the might of Goliath and won,” he said.
Warner said his team went up against the might of the government, the cabinet and the “highest level of vindictiveness practised” on the people of Chaguanas West and won.
“One lesson to be learnt is that a government must listen and respond. Government must be from the ground up, not the top down,” he said.
His decision to seek a fresh mandate in the face of persistent allegations has paid off handsomely. He assured the crowd last night that the ILP was here to stay, suggesting that there would be no return to the UNC and that any rapprochement with the People’s Partnership would have to be done through the ILP.
The parliament which opens on Friday will have a new political party. And Warner will be a main figure in the parliament once more, some three months after his resignation, because of yesterday’s electoral accomplishment.
If Warner was the winner, the prime minister was the loser. Thirty-six months into her leadership, this was the second campaign in which she led the charge that has ended in defeat. Coming months after the Tobago House of Assembly, this loss is perhaps more devastating because it was in a traditionally safe UNC constituency.
But the prime minister looked relaxed and showed no sight of strain last night as she addressed supporters.
“You win some, you lose some. I do not believe we have lost because we remain in the government”, she said.
She urged her “UNC soldiers” not to be discouraged.
“We still have 26 seats, maybe 27, in the Parliament,” she said. “This (result) gives us a moment of introspection and reflection… This too shall pass.”
She said this was one of many battles and the war was still to be won. She noted that the party still had to face the local government elections, constitutionally due by October. The prime minister said therefore that this experience should be used as a “golden opportunity to learn and not repeat any mistakes from the past”.
An equally calm and composed Khadijah Ameen, who was promoted during the campaign as “this girl’s on fire!”, said the people of Chaguanas West needed the UNC and the UNC would continue to be there for them. She said she knew some of her soldiers might be sad but the People’s Partnership government was their government and the UNC was their party. She praised the prime minister for being with her team “day in, day out”.
“No other prime minister has been so close to the people,” she said.
The prime minister congratulated Warner and wished him good luck in his endeavours as the Chaguanas West MP. She said there was no hate, spite, malice or ill-will to any one in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We are all one family,” she declared.
PNM leader Keith Rowley said the country was in a sad place given the result in Chaguanas West.
“The government has lost its mandate. The prime minister should call the general election now. We implore the prime minister to put Trinidad and Tobago first and call the general election now!” he said. (Express)