Sun | Oct 25, 2020

UNC leader not stepping down

Published:Wednesday | September 23, 2020 | 12:09 AM
Kamla Persad Bissessar
Kamla Persad Bissessar

PORT OF SPAIN (CMC):

The leader of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), Kamla Persad Bissessar, has brushed aside calls for her to step down following the party’s defeat in the August 10 general election, telling her detractors she was justified in not including them as candidates.

In a virtual report to party supporters on Monday night, Persad Bissessar, who led the party to two consecutive general election defeats, said that she has “noted the continued cries from some who are upset that they were not selected".

“It is disappointing that those who I once trusted and empowered are now 'gunning' for me. It really shows the true intentions of such persons, because I am 100 per cent certain if they had returned as MPs or if we had formed the government, they would be singing another tune,” Persad Bissessar said, adding that “all I have to say is that when they go low, we go high”.

Several former government ministers and opposition legislators have been calling on Persad Bissessar to step aside as party leader, and have even erected billboards in various constituencies calling for her removal.

But UNC public relations officer and newly elected legislator, Anita Haynes, has said all 18 elected UNC legislators have “full confidence” in Persad Bissessar.

In her address on Monday night, Persad Bissessar, who in 2010 was elected as the country’s first woman prime minister at the head of a coalition People’s Partnership government, told her detractors “we have a greater duty at hand than to respond to convenient naysayers”.

Persad Bissessar said she had also taken note of those calling for her removal, adding “that’s their democratic right".

“The party will hold its internal elections when they are due. I will put my hat in the ring and I challenge you manos to manos, woman to woman, come forward and put your name next to mine,” she said, adding that she understands her detractors are looking for someone to challenge her “because none of them wants to put their name next to mine".

“So do not worry, that is democracy too. Some people did not get a seat, whether it was Senate seat or seat in the House, and they [are] vex. They want to mash up the whole castle, mash up everything, but they will not succeed.

“If you really truly wanted to play a part in a democracy in a democratic party, you would call for the election. No, they want me to resign. I am not resigning. The party will call the election when it is due and again I say, come forward. I will take on all comers. I am not afraid of any of you.

“I have been here longer than you, and I am far brighter than you can ever hope to be,” Persad Bissessar said, telling supporters “our duty of building a better Trinidad and Tobago remains".

“The party’s internal affairs are just that – our business,” she said, insisting that “the worrying part about all of this is that we are battling two pandemics, COVID and the People's National Movement".

“Many would like you to lose hope and accept defeat, but the battle is only over when you give up,” she added.