PORT OF SPAIN –– The campaign for leadership of the United National Congress (UNC) is gaining momentum for challenger Dr Roodal Moonilal.
The Sunday Guardian has confirmed that former minister of education Dr Tim Gopeesingh has turned his back on former prime minister incumbent Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and is adding his name to Moonilal’s slate.
Gopeesingh, in a brief telephone interview, confirmed that he would make an announcement today at a media conference at the Radisson Hotel, Port of Spain, but the Sunday Guardian has also learnt that Gopeesingh is expected to announce his bid for the chairmanship of the party on Moonilal’s slate.
This building support base comes even as the Persad-Bissessar camp remains silent on her bid for re-election.
This fresh hit on the Persad-Bissessar camp comes even as two former UNC members add their voices to the chorus of dissent directed against Persad-Bissessar.
The Sunday Guardian contacted Persad-Bissessar yesterday, but once the paper identified itself the call was disconnected.
With the internal fight heating up, former UNC members said that whoever wins the internal elections will have the mammoth task of rebuilding the entire party from theground up.
Party founder Trevor Sudama, who spoke with the Sunday Guardian about the current grab for power within the UNC, said while he has not been following the internal elections “too closely”, he did not support Persad-Bissessar’s bid to return to lead the UNC.
“I think Persad-Bissessar should resign, if for nothing else for being part of so many lost elections,” the UNC founder said.
He cited several international cases where political party leaders resigned the top post once they failed at the polls.
But Sudama said losses aside, Persad-Bissessar needed to put the life of the party first.
“The party needs new blood, new life. It needs to start back from the ground up and get back in touch with the people,” Sudama said.
He recalled back in 1988 when he, former prime minister Basdeo Panday, Kelvin Ramnath and John Humphrey were ousted from the National Alliance For Reconstruction (NAR) and started “walking the ground” to start the UNC.
“That is the main issue here, I think. Persad-Bissessar got caught up in the public relations image of herself and lost touch with the ground, lost touch with the people who supported her,” he said.
He said the UNC, when it began contesting elections, worked hard to establish inroads in the hard-to-win constituencies.
“Now you have the party losing not only the marginals but seats like Moruga/Tableland, you have failed as a leader in my opinion,” he said.
Sudama said under new leadership he might become more involved in UNC politics, but only if a new leader took the party back to the grass roots.
“The UNC needs to get back to its core constitution,” he said.
Sudama said Persad-Bissessar made a grave error by giving the People’s National Movement three months advance notice of the general election, but gave her own candidates only three weeks to campaign.
Sudama was referring to the UNC’s only naming its election slate some 21 days before the general election.
“I think the reasoning was two-fold. One, she wanted the surprise factor, to surprise the electorate, and two, she wanted to stymie the dissension inside the party,” he said.
With just three weeks before nominations close, only deputy political leader Dr Roodal Moonilal has so far thrown his hat into the ring to challenge Persad-Bissessar.
“I don’t know if Moonilal is the one to bring back the party, but it cannot be Persad-Bissessar,” he said.