As of yesterday the names of seven candidates to contest the Chaguanas West bye-election were submitted to the United National Congress Secretariat at the Rienzi Complex. The deadline for the submission of names is 4 pm today.
The party Elections Officer and Minister in the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Affairs, Ramona Ramdial, told Newsday yesterday that the structures were in place for the closure of submissions, and the subsequent screening, which is due to be conducted over a two-week period, starts on Monday. Once the candidate has been selected by the screening committee, which is headed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the name of the candidate will be announced.
Other members in the committee are Ramdial as elections officer, the party’s deputy chairmen, representative of the women’s arms, the party’s regional chairmen, and two other party officials. “The process could take two weeks, or less than two weeks.” Ramdial said once the candidate is selected, the campaign will begin.
Among the names submitted, she said, are former member of parliament and national security minister Jack Warner, former UNC government minister Manohar Ramsaran, attorney-at-law Ashvani Mahabir, and pundit Satyanand Mahabir.
Asked who were the others, she told Newsday, “I am not privy to that as yet.”
The UNC Secretariat, she said, was responsible for receiving the submissions. When asked about the number and names of the candidates, UNC acting Chairman Khadija Ameen replied in a text message, “Several persons. I won’t be able to disclose names at this time.”
Trade and Investment Minister Vasant Bharath, whose name had been in the public domain as being tipped to be a candidate told Newsday yesterday that he is not in the running. Meanwhile, in a brief telephone interview Ramsarran, 63, who once held the portfolio for sport, social and community development, gender and consumer affairs all at one time told Newsday “whoever the party chooses, I will support.”
While he himself did not submit his name, he said he agreed to the submission based on many requests by activists to fight for the seat.
“As of now I cannot say if I am nominated,” he said adding, “If I am called for screening, I will go. I don’t want a media fight. The objective is to serve in any capacity.” Warner who resigned as MP to seek a fresh mandate from the constituency amidst a number of negative reports in the media told Newsday he is ready to be screened. He will wait to be invited to be screened.
Asked about his competitors, Warner said, “I don’t want to comment on the candidacy from within the UNC.” However, he dismissed PNM Avinash Singh’s candidacy as “cosmetic”.
Satyanand Mahabir, 36, has told Newsday he decided to throw his hat in the political ring because his deceased father was a campaign manager of the United Labour Front, and at the age of five, he accompanied his father to political meetings and was intrigued with the world of politics. In the last internal party elections for the chairmanship of the party Ashvani Mahabir had contested against, and lost to Warner.