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Parties ready for Mickela’s entry

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It’s a free country.

That was the general sentiment from United National Congress (UNC) and People’s National Movement (PNM) officials yesterday to moves by Mickela Panday and her group to form a political party.

Panday and her supporters received a loud “yes” from some quarters when the question of forming a party was raised at an open forum she hosted in Chaguanas on Sunday. Chairman of the function, Dr Ronald Roopnarine, said the “consensus was clear” and the group intends moving ahead with plans for a party.

Commenting on this, UNC MP Suruj Rambachan said, “This is a free country. Anybody who wants to enter the political fray has freedom to do so - we’ll see them on the hustings.”

Asked how UNC might maintain members - especially old Panday supporters - in the face of the Panday group’s moves, Rambachan was tight-lipped. But he added, “The UNC will always retain its maximum base. The party’s been serving people and people are beginning to understand UNC was a very good party in government and they continue supporting it.”

On whether the Panday name would win over UNC members, Rambachan said, “It’s on the hustings, you’ll see the final determination.”

Asked about what he thought of the attendance at last Sunday’s Panday group launch - and that UNC MP Ganga Singh attended - Rambachan said, “It’s good people are going to see what’s on offer, they’re free to go anywhere they want.”

But UNC activist Devant Maharaj, who came out swinging, said third parties only assist the PNM, Team Unity, COP and ILP.

Maharaj added, “I was a part of the Team Unity under then-AG Ramesh Maharaj, I also was part of COP with Winston Dookeran, I saw the rise and fall of Jack and Hulsie. These political figures were much larger than Mickela and they failed. They only beneficiary to a third party has been and will always be the PNM.

“Imagine Louis Lee Sing, whose station was in full swing attacking the Panday administration, now clapping for Panday? Is it that the PNM is silently going to support this new entity knowing they will split the vote?”

He added: “What’s Mickela’s claim to fame other than the Panday name? Panday is trying to live a dream but really putting the population in another PNM nightmare. Panday’s toy of a party to his daughter will be paid for by an unsuspecting population.”

Also commenting yesterday, PNM general secretary Daniel Dookie said, “In T&T’s democratic processes everybody’s free to engage in the political process as they see fit. If people have political ambitions, our system allows them to pursue that in accordance with T&T’s laws. But the PNM’s a political party and we’ll do our job in any competitive environment and do what we have to in order to be victorious at all the polls regardless of who’s contesting - we take on all comers.”

In the absence of COP leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, who’s overseas, COP MP Prakash Ramadhar said he always encourages people to get involved in politic, “but we must all work together in a unified effort if we have to improve T&T. I look forward to many others getting involved not only for leadership but to find solutions, as people are tired of the same old rhetoric.”

COP Parliamentary caucus member Rodger Samuel said,”Personally, I feel T&T’s at a stage where some are disappointed in the Government not doing well and others have trust issues with the Opposition. In such an environment, entities arise - people are searching. But it augers well for politics as it gives new perspectives and redounds to the people’s benefits.”

Tough task—Analysts

Political analysts had mixed reactions to Mickela Panday’s open forum meeting last Sunday, which ended with a call for her to launch a new political party.

Dr Winford James (overseas) said, “I haven’t read all the reports, but if they’re true then it’s not good news for Kamla and the UNC. Mickela may release energies within the Indo-TT constituency that are pro-Panday, young and feel alienated. She’d also create space for the Prime Minister and the PNM - but she has the task of building her brand. Not easy in two and a half years.”

Dr Bishnu Ragoonath, who said the Panday move was the latest of several aggregations he’d heard of being formed, said,”My view is whether the support base is broad enough to take this Panday initiative into the future as a strong political party. From media reports, last Sunday’s gathering was a small group. They need to expand their base and ensure their movement if they’re to survive at all.”

He said currently there are political entities with small numbers of people and whether the Panday initiative would be a significant enough to be a third force, “we’ll have to wait and see”. But he saw them as no threat to the two main parties at this point.


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