Saturday 10th June, 2006

Gail Alexander
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The bets are on

Red neckties outnumbered the red outfits in Parliament yesterday. The traditionally known energy of the colour failed, however, to perk up the earlier part of the session, although MPs had been lively with football talk before proceedings started.

(National Security Minister Martin Joseph’s statement recapping anti- crime measures may or may not have had something to do with the lull that ensued after.)

At Thursday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Health Minister John Rahael revealed he was taking bets that the Soca Warriors would draw with England in that upcoming match.

MPs are probably more grateful than the rest of the population that today’s T&T/Sweden match is taking place on a Saturday.

When T&T played Bahrain last year—on a Friday—Parliament had to take a break for MPs and Red House staff to watch the conclusion of the match.

Today, though, Trade Minister Ken Valley is hosting a lime at his Caribbean Shoppe in St James to watch the match, he said.

Among invitees is Works Minister Colm Imbert—whose large shiny black SUV is flying a T&T flag. However Imbert also has five other invitations to Movietown and several private residences, he said.

Local Government Minister Rennie Dumas is cheering the Soca Warriors on over his weekly Saturday soup at Sunset Inn in Tobago.

“Basso’s, as it’s known, is where we all pass through on a Saturday and it’s been the scene of some memorable times including in our political lives,” Dumas added.

Pt Fortin MP Larry Achong is hoping a mid-morning meeting in Port-of-Spain concludes in time for him to find a “suitable venue” to watch the match.

UNC’s executive boasted so many football fans that Wednesday’s executive meeting was shelved due to the presence in Germany not only of deputy Jack Warner and former leader Basdeo Panday, but also vice chairman Vassant Bharat and CEO Tim Gopeesingh.

Even former Sports Minister Manohar Ramsaran is in Germany until month-end, his office confirmed.

However, remaining UNC members here were not betting on the future of the new Democratic National Alliance whose NAR, DPTT and former C4TAP/dna components have come together.

The mixture of fledgling and faded is being moulded by interim chairman, MP Gerald Yetming, NAR’s chief organiser in its heyday.

At Wednesday’s presentation, executive member Colin Coker of DNA’s Tobago unit was confident that “once you’re new, young and attractive” the party would succeed. He seemed oblivious to the fact that many of those present in the Crowne Plaza room were representative of the older NAR crowd.

Among new faces, however, is DNA’s treasurer, businessman Afra Raymond, a director of Port-of-Spain’s Raymond and Pierre real estate company. The group hopes Raymond and former minister Mervyn Assam will be able to drum up financial support.

The line-up at the head table for Wednesday’s press briefing, though, was devoid of any typical UNC support. (Yetming didn’t count since he was often regarded as more NARite than UNC even while in the Opposition party.)

By Yetming’s own admission about continuing dialogue with UNC leader Winston Dookeran, the group appears to be banking on Dookeran for that input.

While DNA is resurrecting former NARites in building new support, Dookeran seems to have accomplished some of that on his own in attracting Aldwyn Lequay and John Humphrey (in the audience), as well as Kama Maharaj (on his platform) to his meeting on Monday night.

So far, however, Dookeran, who has been using unity as his battle cry, recently took to sounding a note of warning (and not to the PNM) which could very well ultimately cause a split in the UNC.

“I will not allow the few people who are power hungry to deter me from doing the job I have to do,” Dookeran said Monday night.

Confidently declaring that “ they” can never throw him out of the UNC, Dookeran (and his detractors) knows the consequences, good and bad respectively, if “they” actually did that.

Consequently, he may feel secure to pursue his very obvious mobilisation efforts with the UNC members.

The DNA’s plan to launch in August may give Dookeran about two more months to work if he intends to link with the party. However, the patience of the UNC executive may run out before that.

Dookeran has not yet responded to the executive’s call for answers on his recent actions and meetings.

“Any disciplinary proceedings may depend on how he responds,” an executive member said yesterday.

Former minister Humphrey, who supports Dookeran, said the DNA has intellectual acumen but lacks personnel with mass appeal.

“While Winston is attracting the ONR constituency, he can also bring the UNC together with it,” he said yesterday.

Humphrey added that he was the one who had spoken to various politicians—including Wendell Mottley—about coming together last year.

Mottley has been at the focus of accusations by UNC deputy Jack Warner of a “former PNM Minister” being behind a plot against the UNC.

Former reporter Roger Ramcharitar, who had been on Mottley’s public relations team in Mottley’s now defunct Citizens Alliance, is now working with Dookeran’s team, his St Augustine office confirmed yesterday. Humphrey added:

“When Mr Panday was in jail last year, I felt we had an opportunity to recapture the spirit of 1986. I contacted Lloyd Best who endorsed the idea. He put me on to Kirk Meighoo who contacted Bindra Maharaj who also put me on to Wendell.

“I contacted Lennox Sankersingh of the NAR and Ramesh Maharaj and invited them all to join me to go see Mr Panday in prison and ask him to come out and build unity .”

At that stage Humphrey, who had designed the UNC’s rising sun logo, said he designed another logo which he thought could serve as the symbol for a coming together of the parties—a sun that had risen.

“All this happened before UNC’s internal election,” he added. “I went with Kamal Mohammed, Tim Gopeesingh, Nirad Tewarie and others to a meeting at Bindra’s house. I spoke to Jack (Warner) about it also,” Humphrey added.

“The day after we met at Bindra’s house, Basdeo accepted bail so the effort didn’t go anywhere. But I still believe the spirit of unity exists.”

He added: “Mr Panday and myself know you cannot enter elections with leadership squabbles. It seems the people who want to be Prime Minister—Ramesh, Kamla, Basdeo if he can return, even Jack—don’t want to support Winston.

“But while Kamla’s ambitious, she’s has less experience, so Winston is the only chance now.”





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