In Felicity; in Cumuto; in Manzan; in Mayaro to name a few
By: Peter Green
Never before in the 25-year-old history of the UNC has there been such a rebellion against the Party leadership as there is today. In the UNC heartland of Felicity, members are adamant that they will not support the candidate, one Wendy Francis, whom they feel has been thrust upon them and to whom they say has no legitimacy. The UNC insists that Wendy resides in the Borough of Chaguanas and that she previously served as the Treasurer in the National Executive and that she is fully qualified. According to her resume’ which has been circulated by the Party, she has over 20 years knowledge and experience, developing and conducting projects. But Felicitians dispute this and are asking how a 39-year-old woman can have over 20 years’ experience which, at least, means that at the age of 19 she was qualified.
Impossible they say! Felicity residents say that Wendy claims to have been the Treasurer of the National Executive (NATEX) in 2015 but no one can confirm this. They agree that she is married to Francis of Francis Engineering, a multi-million-dollar company in Felicity and speculation suggests that she may have bought the seat.
Furthermore, the residents state that though Wendy was raised in Felicity she never participated in community activities there and she is therefore totally unknown to the electorate.
Was Wendy ever screened?
Although she is supported by some of the current Executive Committee members in the Chaguanas West constituency led by its Chairman Wesley Pancham, her walkabouts in the Felicity / Endeavour electoral district consists of just four persons some of whom cannot vote for her as they fall outside of her electoral district.
This no doubt suggests that Wendy’s campaign team does not know the electoral boundaries nor the electoral lists. According to the UNC members in Felicity this is an example of the amateur candidates selected by the UNC.
Questions are even asked whether Wendy filed nomination papers or was ever screened for the seat.
On the other hand, the choice of the people in Felicity is for one Danraj Balkaran (Balkie) of LP 19 in Balkie Drive in Felicity. He is a truck driver in the Borough but his community activities place him way ahead of Wendy, the villagers say. He is the Vice President of the Felicity Farmers Association, Executive Member of the Central Farmers Association and is credited as being the person, who in 2018, highlighted corruption in the Chaguanas Borough Corporation.
He is the Branch President of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union in Felicity and has played cricket and football in the community.
Felicity residents have decided that since Balkie did not get the nod from the UNC for the seat that he should go up as an Independent candidate and it is said that he has accepted. It is said that in order to prop up Wendy the UNC is promising everyone that they will be made an Alderman. The Chaguanas Borough is legally entitled to only 3 Aldermen but some 10 persons have been promised.
If Balkie does succeed in his Independent candidacy, as all signs indicate, this will be a big blow to the UNC and, in particular its Political leader Ms. Persad Bissessar when, in a by-election in 2013 for the Chaguanas West constituency, Jack Warner’s ILP beat the UNC in all 51 polling divisions and defeated their candidate Khadija Ameen more than 3 to 1. The UNC is therefore in serious trouble in Felicity. As we go to press there is another Independent candidate who will oppose the UNC and, in this case, it is the ever popular and humble Pradeep Cassiram who will be going up against the UNC Adrian Ali for the Munroe Road/Caroni Savannah Road seat.
In Cumuto, the PNM is all set to wrest that seat from the UNC whose candidate is Anil Maharaj. The PNM’s candidate is Rajcoomar Bhagaloo who comes from a prominent family of retired and current school Principals, teachers and community activists. His family is active in education, in the Maha Sabha and in culture and cricket.
A once UNC stronghold has now become a marginal seat
Ironically, Bhagaloo was formerly the UNC candidate for that seat in 2013 which he won. For some inexplicable reason however, unknown up to today, Bhagaloo did not get the UNC nod for his seat in 2016 following which he switched to the PNM contested the seat and lost to the UNC by a mere 277 votes, 1486 to the UNC’s 1700. What is critical is that the PNM had increased its voter margin in 2016 by more than twenty-five percent while the UNC’s increase was less than five percent. The UNC’s candidate for this seat is Anil Maharaj who it said is not well liked but one whom many say have gotten the nod for the seat because he is the nephew of Sat Maharaj. He runs a vegetable stall in Sangre Grande but rumour has it that he has difficulty in paying his debts.
Kamla facing revolts
So, a once-safe UNC stronghold that was the first UNC seat ever in that region which was won by John Agitation in 1989 has now become a marginal seat. And what is even more for the UNC is that the PNM Campaign Manager for that area is the ever-hard-working Rohan Sinanan, the present Minister of Works and Transport, who has to prove his worth. There is also dissatisfaction in Manzanilla with the UNC’s choice of candidate there and many persons are saying that the relationship between the UNC candidate for Sangre South, Seetaran, and the UNC candidate for Manzanilla, Kerwyn Phillip is much more than fraternal.
So, a Regional Corporation that is presently 4/4 between the UNC and the PNM is all set to become another PNM success story with the eventual result being 6:2 in the PNM’s favour.
In Rio Claro/Mayaro Regional Corporation its Chairman, Glen Ram, the incumbent for the Biche/Charuma district has eventually stepped down, not to clear his name as the UNC Political leader is fond of saying, but instead to sponsor a relative of his with the hope that if the relative wins he, Ram, will be made an Alderman and Chairman once again. This has incensed the UNC members in that Corporation and they are all vowing not to support the UNC candidates.
All over the country Kamla seems to be facing a revolt on her hands for even in the Siparia Regional Corporation, especially in the La Brea area, it does not look so good for the UNC. In that Corporation the PNM Campaign Manager is Robert Le Hunte who is no pushover. So there are two PNM Generals in the fray – Sinanan in the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation and Le Hunte in Siparia. Even in Pt. Fortin, there is no escape from problems for Kamla. Last Friday, in Naparima, the entire Executive walked out of the swearing-in ceremony of the LGE candidates and in Fyzabad also all is also not well.
The cry on the ground is that “it is time to teach Kamla a lesson.”
Little resources for African UNC candidates
Even the UNC’s organization leaves much to be desired. In former times a UNC Election Launch would have been held at the Mid Center Mall in Chaguanas with all the ratzamatazz accompanying it. But not so today since the UNC November 10th Launch is scheduled for the Hall at the office of the Member of Parliament for Couva South Rudy Indarsingh. Even as we go to press the UNC has not as yet finalized its list of candidates while the PNM has already done so.
Last Sunday, the PNM held a training seminar at the Radisson Hotel for all of its 139 candidates, teaching them how to speak, how to dress and platform techniques. Meanwhile UNC candidates especially those on the corridor and who are mainly Africans are grumbling about the deliberate lack of resources from the UNC and even their lack of organization. Many of them were very critical of the Regional Manager for Arima as well as the UNC’s National Manager.
Success at this election is more critical for Kamla Persad-Bissessar who has lost 10 consecutive elections since 2010. So, if she loses the upcoming Local Government Election by whatever margin there shall be a leadership crisis in the UNC amidst renewed calls for her to step down as that Party’s Political Leader.