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UNC new vision has to move from tribalism
The real challenge for the United National Congress is the capacity of the membership to engineer a major transformation of the party into to one with institutional and infrastructural strength and vigorous participation by the membership. Nothing said by any of the candidates and those who have indicated some interest in contesting the internal election of the party has given the impression that they are about changing that attitude which has been informed by the experiences of the five years in office and the position of the party now in opposition.
In fact, there remains, in the statements being made, the blaming of this one or that one. So too is there a strong element of denial that the party lost the election though losing 100,000 votes and 11 seats.
Many are those who are dumping on political leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar (who no doubt has to accept the major responsibility for poor governance leading to the loss of the election) when they were all quietly acquiescent and or supported in full the real reasons why the party was booted out of government—poor governance and little attention paid to the strident calls of corruption in government.
Rodney Charles and his obnoxious and irrelevant “No Rowley” campaign are being targeted for all of the troubles of the party’s campaign—were there those who stood up against such campaigning?
Incidentally, many of the candidates are saying what a wonderful government the PP was, but yet, the electorate turned it out of office. If it were such a great government, reportedly the best T&T ever had, what were the reasons for such a turnaround in the electoral fortunes of the People’s Partnership, not on one occasion but in five elections?
Maybe the spokespersons who make such a claim of great government in office do not consider quality of governance, allegations of mass corruption, poor and weak leadership displayed by the Prime Minister, nepotism and other such reasons articulated by electors and commentators as being important to quality governance.
The UNC has not apologised to its supporters for throwing away yet another opportunity to fashion a truly representative party of the major ethnicities and polities in the country. In so doing the leadership of the party has denied its supporters of an opportunity to remain in government.
No one has admitted for instance, that the UNC deliberately sabotaged the Congress of the People and left it like a wet rag at the end of five years. Instead they boast that Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the only leader to have held together a coalition over a five-year period.
What was the state of the coalition at the end of five years? Was there a solidification and development of the party? Frankly what was left after five years was merely the UNC and as has been pointed out the Congress of the Person, leader Prakash Ramadhar, who was given a UNC handout seat in St Augustine.
Staying together is not the criterion that the coalition should be judged by rather it is the quality of the coalition which survived and was built upon out of the Fyzabad Declaration.
Even the reality of the party having to contest internal elections now is the fallout from the failure of the party to organise such elections when it was in power. The elections were reportedly delayed to allow the UNC’s constitution to be modified to accommodate a coalition—two years later there is no new constitution in place and the reality of a bruising internal campaign is up ahead, one which will surely leave many politically injured.
What is more, without plans and programmes, yet to be released, for transformation, then inevitably the election campaign will fall back on mud-slinging and personal attacks. This has happed on several occasions in the past and there is yet an indication that that approach to internal elections will change.
Transformation of the UNC is not about Kamla, Roodal, Gopeesingh, Bharath—it is about capturing a new vision for the party; transformation must leave behind the messianic worship of a leader; the contestants must find ways and means of moving the party and its supporters from being a party of the tribe. Those contesting for office must say how they are going to enter into serious political partnerships to cross-over into the non-Indo community.
If the UNC does not indicate that it has the capacity to cross-over in a meaningful way into the Afro-community it risks the possibility of the other tribal party, the PNM, utilising its position in government to seek to make the cross-over and leave the UNC behind.
I reiterate, the UNC leadership must conceive of a new vision of politics. That new vision must be grounded in the construction of a new party base and structure; it must end the over-reliance on the tribe to vote the party back into office, notwithstanding how poorly the party governs; so too are the demographics changing and there could emerge a generation not so caught up in the politics of their grandfathers and grandmothers.
It is also a challenge being faced by the PNM; being in office with the spoils of office to hand out makes it easier for the party to change. Will it change, however, or is the culture of race so sewed solidly into the politics?
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