Guardian: UNC must unite and move on

Guardian Newspaper

Editorial by The Trinidad Guardian

Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Apr 26, 2006 –When the cries of “discrimination” die down and as the voices of the UNC executive members grow weary from shouting over the jailing of their political king and savant, they will have to address the issue of reorganisation of their political party.

Effectively, Basdeo Panday will be out of the political equation for the foreseeable future. Even if the ruling of Chief Magistrate Mc Nicolls were to be overturned by the Appeal Court or the Privy Council, the evidence presented in the case that Panday knowingly refused to declare the London bank account has shot his credibility.

Ideally, the party should therefore end the hopes of having its founder and messiah return to the fold in triumph to lead them to the glory land. Hope for that fairy-tale ending is now mere unrealisable dream.

Early indications, however, are that the executive remains entrenched in the Panday grip and will do nothing about his leadership of the party until and unless his sentence is confirmed by the appeal courts.

On Monday night, the executive excluded political leader Winston Dookeran from the platform. In industrial terms that amounts to constructive dismissal. Immediately, that decision could potentially shut the door on the UNC getting out of Central and parts of south Trinidad to have appeal to the wider electorate. That may well mean the death knell of the party as an effective national force.

But it does not have to be so. The executive can non-emotionally calculate the future of the political organisation and conclude that to further divide the party now is not a rational option.

Moreover, the men and women of the executive must realise that to contemplate reorganisation without Panday at the helm of the UNC would not amount to being ungrateful to the man who has constructed the political institution.

Indeed, along with the decision to reorganise, the UNC executive should commit the party’s resources, financial and otherwise, to supporting the appeal of Panday right through to the Privy Council and begin a fund to meet legal costs and to repay the 160,000 pounds sterling if that forfeiture award by the magistrate were to stand at the end of the appeals.

And if Panday were to truly have the interests of his political supporters at heart, he would be the first to say to them, the cause of the party and its supporters must predominate.

These are practical approaches as a couple elections hang in the air. To hang the party’s future on the outcome of the appeal would be foolish and a squandering of time. To further divide the party by throwing Mr Dookeran out would be to squander political resources and that would be fatal as there is no one now within the folds of the UNC who has the credibility and stature of a national leader.

The option seems quite clear-cut.

As for Mr Dookeran, unless there is a change of heart amongst the executive, he remains a political leader without a party. He may control the position of the Chief Whip in the House but there again the Panday loyalists in the chamber are likely to ignore the Whip and eventually divide themselves into two groups, making the two factions even less effective.

The message is that there is little future along the path of further division. (The Trinidad Guardian)