Monday 4th February, 2007


Panday: I’m open for talks with Robin

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By Gail Alexander

UNC Interim political leader Basdeo Panday says he is open to meet and speak with former UNC Senator Robin Montano—who he fired a year ago—and anyone else who wants to “return home” to the UNC.

And Panday says he has already communicated with Montano on the issue since he wrote recently to Montano and 161 other past MPs, senators and councillors, urging them to return.

In an exclusive interview in Saturday’s Public Affairs column, Montano, fired as UNC senator by Panday last February, said he had been approached two weeks ago by UNC’s Suruj Rambachan about returning to the UNC.

In the interview, Montano said: “I told him (Rambachan) that Basdeo Panday was the man who fired me (from the Senate) and if anyone wants me back, it is Panday who would have to talk to me.”

“And, yes, if Bas calls, I will speak to him,” he said.

“If Patrick Manning called me, I’d speak to him too, but it doesn’t mean I’ll agree with him...In fact, I’ve already received low-level overtures from PNM.

“I was hurt and disappointed by Mr Panday’s dismissal, but I never criticised him privately or publicly, so if he calls me, we can talk.”

Yesterday, after the UNC’s weekend retreat—where British Labour Party consultants addressed the party—Panday spoke about Montano’s statements.

“The entire party, as well as myself, believes we should unite as the only way to defeat the PNM and and try restore T&T,” he said.

“We know people will realise their mistakes and consider the national interest.

“I issued 162 letters recently to past MPs, senators, councillors and other members to ‘come home,’ and a personal letter to Robin was among those.

“So, actually, I have made the overture to him and I am open to speak with him and anyone else.”

Panday said he had not yet received a reply from Montano.

“So far, we have received positive responses from many of the small parties—Garvin Nicholas’, Carson Charles’, Nizam Mohammed...They have put country first.

“They know unity is the way forward, not only for the UNC, but for T&T.”

Panday said he was prepared to meet-one-on-one with Montano, “independent” MP Dr Fuad Khan or anyone else who had unity as a priority.

He will be emphasising his unity call at UNC’s weekly meeting tonight in California.

Khan recently called on the UNC and the Congress of the People (COP) to unite.

Panday said the weekend retreat was very educational.

“We learned a lot...The consultants spoke about setting up party machinery, not advising on internal affairs,” he said.

“The UNC is now in much better shape to face the election than prior to the retreat.”

Panday did not comment on his past run-in with Montano when he fired him from the Senate a year ago.

Montano was dismissed during the heat of tensions between the Panday UNC and Winston Dookeran and his supporters, then in the UNC.

Panday gave no reason in notifying Montano that his appointment was being revoked.

However, Montano said he believed he had been sacked because he had moved a motion to oppose the return of Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj to the UNC then. Montano was replaced by Dr Tim Gopeesingh.

Montano subsequently linked up with Dookeran’s team which eventually became the COP.

But he has been low-profile with that group since last July, save for a November appearance when COP officials prevailed on him to speak at at a Bamboo Settlement meeting.

COP officials last Thursday confirmed that Montano had been concerned about his role, but could not receive an answer from the COP leadership on what his position might be.

Still, COP officials have continued to approach him to appear on platforms.

In Saturday’s interview, Montano declined any comment on the COP issue.

Yesterday, a COP spokesman said “there was no problem,” as far as he knew.

“Robin is with us,” he added.

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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