(Trinidad Express) Election confusion has already begun.
The names of the founding father of the United National Congress (UNC), Basdeo Panday, and majority of the Panday family have vanished from the party’s official voting list in the lead-up to its internal election.
Panday cried foul yesterday, saying this was evidence that the March 24 internal election would be far from fair.
The name of Panday’s daughter, Mickela, a former parliamentarian, also cannot be found on the list, which prevents her from contesting Jack Warner’s bid for continued chairmanship of the party. She is also unable to contest the post of one of the deputy political leaders.
She told the media yesterday that these were the positions she would be interested in contesting, had her name been on the list.
Basdeo Panday is adviser to Generation Next, a group formed to take back the UNC from its current executive.
Speaking to the Express by phone, Basdeo Panday said it was up to the people to set things right and create change.
“We had a feeling for some time that they are going to steal the elections and every day it is becoming more and more clear that is going to happen. I went to the office to ask if my name was on the list. I was told that I have to fill out a form and leave it. I refused. I went to the headquarters where they have the list there and I was told by some little pippy clerk that I have to fill out a form and leave it with them and they will contact me to tell me if I am on the list,” said Panday.
“The plan is to humiliate as much as possible so that you are frustrated and you abandon the attempt to make change,” said Panday.
A political vacuum, he said, was being created and if the election is stolen, the people would have no choice but to protest all over the country or form a new political party.
Despite complaints of election irregularities, Generation Next, led by Mickela Panday, will still put up a full slate that will contest every available position on the executive, except the chairmanship.
Yesterday was nomination day, and all potential candidates filed their nomination forms at the party’s headquarters at Rienzi Complex, Couva.
Speaking to the media after the Generation Next team filed their nomination forms and when asked which position she was contesting, Mickela Panday responded, “Unfortunately, I am not going up for any position because I am not on the membership list of the UNC… I know myself to be a lifetime member, but I am unfortunately not on the list. I have not appeared and if they do rectify it before voting day, of course I’ll be able to vote. But if they don’t, I won’t be able to vote either.”
The discovery that the Pandays’ names had disappeared from the list, she said, came after calls were made to the party headquarters to enquire whether potential candidates of Generation Next were listed.
She said callers were questioned as to whether they received a calendar and whether they attended second anniversary celebrations of political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on January 24.
“I panicked because I have never gotten a calendar, I didn’t get invited to January 24 so that’s when I enquired and then of course the copy of the list that’s available. I am in the constituency of Oropouche East… my name does not appear, other members of my family’s names don’t appear as well,” she said.
She said of her entire household, the person least interested in politics, Nicola Panday, has her name on the list. She said she does not believe the election will be fair, but “it is better to try and fail than to fail to try”. She noted that in the 2010 internal election, all members of the Panday family voted. That election saw the defeat of her father and the rise of Persad-Bissessar as political leader. The Pandays believe, however, the election was unfair and stolen and expect the same for the March 24 election later this month.
“One person doesn’t make a slate, so the fact that I am not able to run, it don’t by any means take away. We have the most wonderful, vibrant diverse slate. We have people who love the party, who want to bring the party back to its glory… just a beautiful mix,” said Mickela Panday.
She added that a number of “popular persons” withdrew their support for fear of victimisation.
“One prospective candidate was working at an MP’s office, attended one of my meetings and unfortunately was subsequently dismissed. It didn’t set a good precedent obviously because people then panicked and I don’t judge anybody who withdrew. I understand everybody has their own individual things going on in their life,” she said.
She added that this was frightening because it was what the UNC fought against since inception.
Besides names vanishing from the official voting list, there are other problems, such as members receiving three membership cards to vote.
Kavita Ramdeo-Dabiedeen, Generation Next candidate for vice-chairman of the party, and Rajendra Gosein, Generation Next candidate for Central coordinator, showed the media that they received three cards in the mail.
Dabiedeen said the impropriety in the party is what fuelled her to run for the vice-chairmanship.
UNC elections officer Ramona Ramdial, addressing questions from the media on claims of election irregularities, said last night: “There was an elections committee that was appointed and ratified by Natex (the national executive) to have the election process run smoothly, and I think if there was a concern by Ms Panday she was supposed to take it to the secretariat, and then the elections committee would looked at the listing and give her feedback. If that was not done, then we don’t know what was her procedure.”