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Bring Back Jack
While Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar mulls over the personal implications of Monday’s devastating loss in the Chaguanas West by-election, views in her administration vary on whether to bring victorious Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner back into the Government. UNC MP Winston Peters, Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader Ashworth Jack and the PM’s national security adviser Gary Griffith yesterday favoured Warner’s re-entry into the partnership.
But the Congress of the People (COP) has maintained a hardline position against him, and other UNC MPs have deferred discussion to today’s Cabinet session and a UNC national executive meeting. The Cabinet session will focus on the by-election results and where the PP goes from here, a spokesman said yesterday. This follows several hours of intense debate until 1 am yesterday after Monday’s by-election results, in which Warner copped 12,642 votes to UNC candidate Khadijah Ameen’s 5,129.
The partnership is seeking answers ahead of Friday’s opening of the Fourth Session of the Tenth Parliament, when Warner takes his new oath as an MP and his place in Parliament again. Warner’s ILP begins planning future developments this afternoon.
After the results, UNC officials said, the Prime Minister and her team met for several hours. Talks focused on whether the outcome was a personal indictment against the Government, the PM or their governance in general, and whether people voted for Warner or simply against the Government. Sources said the Prime Minister is examining whether the outcome is an indictment on her personally, since she spearheaded Ameen’s campaign.
It was agreed partnership leaders must meet for “serious discussions,” as called for by the COP immediately after Monday’s results. Among the issues discussed on Monday were alternatives and options now open to the partnership. Some officials believe one of these is to bring Warner back into the Government, which he had said he wanted if he had won the seat. During the campaign, however, the Prime Minister had refused to consider doing so.
UNC deputy leaders, Drs Suruj Rambachan and Roodal Moonilal, didn’t answer calls yesterday. Nor did Transport Minister Chandresh Sharma. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said he couldn’t comment. Dr Rupert Griffith said it would be premature to make a statement before partnership officials had discussed it. UNC MP Winston “Gypsy” Peters, who consistently supported Warner during his campaign against the PP, when asked about bringing Warner into the Government, said: “I’m all for unifying the whole thing.
“There’s only one Opposition. So we should bring everyone into the partnership who wants to come in so we can strengthen it against them and make it what we professed it would be when we entered office.” Asked if it would be credible, since the PM had shot down Warner’s idea of joining the PP during the campaign, Peters said: “In politics things can be very negotiable. When you’re on the hustings, you say and do things, but compromises can also be reached that as long as the climate is right. So of course it can happen.”
TOP leader Ashworth Jack said bringing Warner back was “an issue we all have to discuss.” “He’s always been a valuable member of the team and whether we like it or not, what he’s done is a first in this part of the world. He wanted a new mandate and the people gave that to him. We all have a lot to learn from the democracy at play here.”
He said he was sure the PP might have no choice but to accept Warner, but it was something no one leader could decide on, since leaders weren’t the organisation. He said he would talk to his party on the matter. Asked if PP leaders needed to meet on the matter, Jack said a meeting was “always necessary.”
He said: “I want to congratulate Warner on his victory. It’s a red-letter day for T&T. It puts to rest in my mind the issue of race as it relates to the ordinary citizen transcending the issue of colour and creed. I think all leaders in T&T could do well to learn from that, including those in Tobago.” Jack said the PM didn’t need to step down or call a general election as a result of the by-election. “This is a time, however, for introspection,” he added.
NJAC deputy leader Embau Moheni said while he had a personal position on the issue, he wouldn’t pre-empt any meeting on it. COP deputy leader Lincoln Douglas, however, said while the COP would consider all options and possibilities, the COP had put its position on Warner on the table before. “We’ll consult members and see where it goes from here,” he said, ”but the party position is fairly clear.”
Douglas, saying he was staying with his party, added he supported the COP’s call for an urgent meeting of leaders. “We believe the tenets of the partnership have to be examined very carefully. We can no longer continue doing business as usual. We must examine where we go from here. The by-election results represent a strong reflection on how T&T is thinking, so it cannot be business as usual,” Douglas said.
“We also have to reflect carefully on partnership leadership, specifically, how leading is done in this coalition. It’s not a single party.” Douglas said COP MPs will caucus before today’s Cabinet to speak from a unified position.
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