OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says any member of the United National Congress (UNC) is entitled to vie for the leadership of the party, as she reacted to yesterday’s launch of a bid by Oropouche East MP, Dr Roodal Moonilal. She said his candidacy was evidence of the party’s strong democratic principles.
“I spoke with him and I wished him good luck and I hope he wishes me good luck as well,” Persad-Bissessar told Newsday.
“We have a healthy democracy and democratic principles. Every member of the party is free to file a nomination and let the membership decide,” said the former prime minister. Asked if she felt any sense of betrayal by Dr Moonilal’s challenge, she replied, “It is a healthy democracy.
Everyone is free to contest. It’s a democracy and I have no problems”.
She said when attorney Larry Lalla said she must step aside, she had replied, “No free pass”, meaning the UNC is a democracy where contenders must vie for office. Asked who would be her choice of Opposition Whip now that Moonilal has stepped down in order to oppose her for the UNC leadership, Persad-Bissessar said she will speak with the MPs and, “we’ll come up with someone.” Asked if she still has what it takes to keep the party and coalition together, she replied, “The answer is yes”. Persad-Bissessar explained, “After the General Election I’ve been visiting the constituencies and listening to them. There is tremendous support”.
However, she claimed the media had given more publicity to her detractors than to her campaign and her supporters, the latter whom she said are numerous.
“The mainstream media is not ‘carrying’ all the people who are supporting me. You are getting the few voices saying, ‘step aside’, or ‘don’t support’, but I have had many, many voices in support.” She said that for the few persons berating her, many, many more are supporting her. “Of the few who say ‘step down’, there are many, many more saying, ‘do not give up’. I believe in a democratic process, and I’ll tell you repeatedly, let the membership decide.” She said she has had tremendous support from councillors, chairmen of regional corporations and some MPs. “Again, they (media) are carrying which MP doesn’t support (me) but not those who support. The majority of MPs have indicated their support.” Persad-Bissessar related that she had won the UNC leadership contest in 2010 without the support of any UNC MP.
“No MP supported me. I won without a base. I won on the basis of the membership and it is to the membership to whom I turn for their support, and so far I’ve been getting real, tremendous support,” she said. “It has not been media-advertised or big meetings, but I have visited about eight constituencies so far, meeting the key activists, the executives and so on, and the response has been tremendous. I want to talk one-on-one with these constituencies and their executives.” “We had the parliamentary arm – councillors, chairmen – they all stood up and openly supported me. The majority of the MPs are supporting me; it’s just a couple who are not.”