TWO days after losing Monday’s general election, former prime minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar yesterday officially congratulated new Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the incoming People’s National Movement (PNM).
Her congratulations to Rowley, who is also PNM political leader and Diego Martin West MP, came hours after Rowley took the oath of office at Queens Hall in St Ann’s, and hours before she looked set to be made the new Opposition Leader after her party resolved that she remain as its political leader.
Speaking with Newsday, Persad-Bissessar said, “I congratulate the new Prime Minister and the new government.” Persad-Bissessar, who is also United National Congress (UNC) political leader and Siparia MP, said the new focus of the People’s Partnership (PP) coalition is rebuilding and re branding itself as a “viable Opposition” in the 11th Parliament which is expected to be convened soon.
In Monday’s elections, the PNM defeated the PP by 23 to 18 seats. Of the 18 seats won by the coalition, 17 were won by the UNC and the other was won by Congress of People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar. None of the other parties in the coalition- Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC)- won any seats in the elections.
The UNC last night issued a resolution passed by its executive stating the UNC National Executive has requested Persad-Bissessar to stay on as political leader and she has agreed.
“Be it resolved that the National Executive of the United National Congress hereby expressed its collective and full support for Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC to continue as political leader of the party,” the resolution stated.
UNC deputy political leader Dr Roodal Moonilal also issued congratulations to Rowley.
“I want to extend congratulations to Dr Rowley on his ascension as Prime Minister,” Moonilal said. He said while he differed with Rowley on issues of programmes and policy, “I wish him all the best.” However he remarked that he did not think the next five years under the PNM would be “the best” for the country.
Commenting on a statement from the UNC Patriots, Moonilal declared there is no vacancy in the party’s leadership and Persad-Bissessar is its “undisputed” leader. Moonilal, who was re-elected as Oropouche East MP on Monday, also expressed his support for Persad- Bissessar as Opposition Leader. He said she will be appointed to that post when the next Parliament convenes.
UNC MPs Dr Bhoe Tewarie (Caroni Central), Ganga Singh (Chaguanas West) and Dr Suruj Rambachan (Tabaquite) also expressed their support for Persad-Bissessar.
Asked if any decision had been made about who would serve as the Opposition Chief Whip, Mooni l a l said that decision has not been taken and the Opposition is taking things “one day at a time.” In its unsigned statement, the UNC Patriots said it has become abundantly clear that Persad-Bissessar, “no longer has the capacity to move us forward to victory.” Against this background, the group called upon Persad-Bissessar to step aside and allow another Opposition MP to become Opposition Leader.