Monday, December 9, 2013

RamJack, Panday in talks

Once they were sworn enemies. Now it appears former prime minister Basdeo Panday, former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj,  SC, and Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner have found unity in a common enemy—Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Yesterday the trio, together with ILP deputy leaders Lyndira Oudit and Anna Deonarine, Banking Insurance and General Workers Trade Union president general Vincent Cabrera and an unidentified man in a COP shirt, held private talks at the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union conference room, Rienzi Complex, Couva. Former UNC MP Mikela Panday was also in the meeting.

Photographers attempted to get a photograph of the three men in the conference room. However, Panday refused. He said, “Why should I prostitute myself for a picture.” The photographers were then told to leave the room by an official who said they were about to have “private meeting.” Their meeting followed a mass conference with cane farmers and ex-Caroni workers on the upper floor of Rienzi Complex which was packed. Attendees lined the back and sides of the conference area as all the seats were filled.

At that meeting Panday, who delivered the feature address, called on the farmers and ex-workers to rise up and reclaim the United National Congress (UNC) from the Persad-Bissessar-led executive. This was also echoed by Maharaj in his address. He said the UNC ship, its captain and crew have “run aground.” “I will try to save the ship. I will work with anyone to save the ship, but I cannot say I will be able to save the captain and the crew,” Maharaj said.

Both he and Panday argued that the party has abandoned its founding principles. Maharaj said he remains a member of the UNC since he has lifetime membership and cannot sit by and watch the party’s base, the sugar workers, being disrespected. He said the residential and agricultural leases that have been issued to the ex-Caroni workers are “not worth the paper” they are printed on. 

Maharaj, who declared that he was “blasted vex,” tore a copy of a residential lease during his speech. He said the workers were betrayed and should have received deeds of conveyance not leases. The deeds, he said, would give them ownership of the lands unlike the leases which come with stipulations. He said if the workers breach the stipulations the land can be taken away from them. “They provoking me,” Maharaj declared.

Yesterday Panday urged the workers to press the UNC executive to call internal elections in the party, which he said, were “long overdue.” He also urged them to contest the elections and ensure that it is free and fair. “You must not allow what happened in the 2010 to happen again,” he said. He said the People’s Partnership government is no different from the People’s National Movement (PNM) since it has turned its back on the very people—the sugar workers, who put them in power.

The sugar workers, he said, never expected that the PP would have betrayed them. “The PP government is ten times worse that their former tormentors,” Panday told ex-Caroni workers. Panday said the current UNC is not the UNC that the sugar workers gave their blood, sweat and tears to build and they must reclaim what is theirs. “You must take back your party, you must that back what is yours, what you gave birth too,” he urged.

He told the ex-Caroni workers that they are being disrespected by the current UNC executive and the government. “The time has come for you to stand up and protest. They treat you like dogs because they believe that you will be satisfied with bones,” Panday declared.
He described the residential and agricultural leases that were being distributed to the workers as a “con game” since no bank would accept the lease as security for loans.

He also questioned the drafting of the leases and the timing of the distribution of the leases, 441 of which were handed out last Wednesday in Couva. Panday stressed the need for constitutional reform so promises made by parties, such as the those made by the UNC to the former workers, will be enshrined in law and if they breach the promises they will be breaking a contract.

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