Today, October 16, is an historic day for our party. On this day 29 years ago, tens of thousands of citizens stood in the rain at Aranguez Savannah and gave Mr. Basdeo Panday the mandate to establish the United National Congress. It was the culmination of months of work by a small team led by Mr. Panday and included Dr Rampersad Parasram, (our founding chairman), the late Kelvin Ramnath and John Humphrey. Their dedication, commitment to equality and justice for everyone, their belief in democratic principles and their embrace of our diversity as a rainbow nation built the foundation on which all of us have helped construct a party of the people, for the people.
The UNC took birth from among the people, beginning as Club 88 – the caucus of love, unity and brotherhood. Club 88 became the conscience of the people following the expulsion of Mr. Panday and his loyalists from the NAR government. Through hundreds of cottage meetings driven by the determination to listen and then lead, the building blocks of a truly national institution became a reality. And on that fateful day thousands stood in the mud in driving rain as they heard Rev. Raymond Pallackdharrysingh and Govindra Roopnarine present the Aranguez Declaration that committed Club 88 to inaugurate the United National Congress, which happened a few months later on April 30, 1989 at the National Stadium in Port of Spain.
The people who went to Aranguez needed no persuasion other that the desire to stand together to be counted as patriots. Mr. Panday called on all citizens to join what he described as a crusade. And borrowing a phrase from the late Martin Luther King jr., he predicted that people would join our movement not by the colour of their skins but by the content of their minds.
One of our founding principles was the equality of every member and the inclusion of a one-member, one-vote system in our party’s constitution. That democratic principle led to the membership making orderly transitions of leadership on three occasions in in our brief history.
Today the UNC continues to hold strong to its founding principles and we remain a people’s organisation. Our party represents a cross section of our country and its big tent policy provides political shelter for all. The UNC has provided two prime ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, both of whom led with a people’s agenda, with a commitment to social justice as a guiding principle to national development.
We remain committed to that agenda and we will rise again to the challenge of bringing light back to our country to burn out the darkness that has descended on Trinidad and Tobago.
Our vision remains one of inclusion, justice, equality, democracy and freedom. There is room in the UNC for everyone who believes in these principles. On this special anniversary I wish to extend to all our members, supporters and friends, especially our founding members, congratulations for building a strong party and best wishes as we prepare to regain the mantle of governance for the benefit of all our people. I urge all of us to keep believing in our party. And, I promise you, as sure as the sunrise, we will rise again. The rising sun will bring relief to the pain and together we will build a just society where all of us will have equal opportunity as we celebrate all that brings us together and build bridges of understanding to unite our diverse rainbow society.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP Siparia
Leader of the Opposition.