Persad-Bissessar wins UNC internal elections

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago: Kamla Persad-Bissessar has defeated Basdeo Panday in the United National Congress (UNC) internal elections and has become the first woman to lead a major political party in Trinidad and Tobago.

Persad-Bissessar, 57, pledged to give her best to replace the People’s National Movement government and return the UNC to power.

“This is a small step for the UNC, but a giant step for the nation,” she said after winning the election last Sunday. “You’ve taken the decision to change the course of your lives. I am your servant. I accept the assignment you gave me. I pledge I will never let you down.”

Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who ran against Persad-Bissessar and Panday for the leadership position, congratulated the victor and promised to work with the new executive of the party.

“I look forward to the strong leadership of Kamla, my sister Kamla, and I expect her to affect the healing process. I am all committed to healing processes,” said Maharaj.

Maharaj pointed to “many discrepancies” in the elections, but said the focus now should not be on dwelling on those irregularities, but ensuring there is never a repeat of them.

“The UNC executive should ensure that the elections never take place in such a manner again, because there were many complaints of people being denied the opportunity to vote,” he said.

In contrast to Maharaj, Panday was defiant and suggested that the results would be challenged.

“I don’t think it’s over yet. I think a lot of our people are going to ask for a recount having regard to a lot of the irregularities that took place. There were a lot of complaints. I imagine it would probably be challenged by our supporters,” said Panday.

Reiterating his opinion expressed during the campaign that the UNC would collapse within six months if Persad-Bissessar and Jack Warner were elected, Panday added “the party would be destroyed”.

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