Local Gov't Elections: UNC eyes 14 corporations, PNM moves to retain 7

The Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress (UNC) is eye­ing eight of the 14 re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions in this year’s Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment elec­tions, while the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment (PNM) is con­fi­dent they can re­tain more than the sev­en coun­cils they cur­rent­ly con­trol.

Though the UNC rules the roost at six cor­po­ra­tions- Cou­va/Tabaquite/Tal­paro, Ma­yaro/Rio Claro, Pe­nal /Debe, Princes Town and Siparia, they want to add to its list Tu­na­puna/Pi­ar­co and San­gre Grande ac­cord­ing to the par­ty’s deputy po­lit­i­cal leader David Lee.

This comes as UNC po­lit­i­cal leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar launched the par­ty’s elec­tion cam­paign at its 30th-an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion in Cou­va on Sun­day, promis­ing 50,000 jobs and a bag of good­ies if re-elect­ed as prime min­is­ter.

The PNM, how­ev­er, has al­ready be­gun to put its elec­tion ma­chin­ery in place, stat­ing that they can re­cap­ture Ari­ma, Point Fortin, Port-of-Spain, San Fer­nan­do, Diego Mar­tin, San Juan/Laven­tille and Tu­na­puna/Pi­ar­co Cor­po­ra­tions and “more” when the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Elec­tions bell is rung, ad­vis­ing the UNC they should not count their eggs be­fore they are hatched.

There was a tie be­tween the UNC and PNM for the San­gre Grande Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion in the No­vem­ber 28, 2016 lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion, which is con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly due every three years.

The PNM won 83 of 137 elec­toral seats in the 14 cor­po­ra­tions. The UNC net­ted 54.

Last Fri­day, the UNC closed off nom­i­na­tions for lo­cal gov­ern­ment can­di­dates af­ter re­ceiv­ing 400 plus ap­pli­ca­tions.

Lee ad­mit­ted that the ma­jor­i­ty of their coun­cil­lors want to re­serve their elec­toral dis­tricts.

“The UNC will put up can­di­dates for all 137 dis­tricts. We would have a mix­ture of young, hard work­ing and ex­pe­ri­enced in­di­vid­u­als,” Lee told Guardian Me­dia Ltd in a tele­phone in­ter­view yes­ter­day.

He said the UNC was op­ti­mistic of re­tain­ing the six cor­po­ra­tions they cur­rent­ly man­age.

Once can­di­dates have been nom­i­nat­ed, Lee said the par­ty will start work­ing the ground to cap­ture votes.

“We have a dead heat in San­gre Grande but the work we are putting down in San­gre Grande we feel we can win that out­right.”

An­oth­er cor­po­ra­tion, Lee said, the UNC can snatch from the PNM was Tu­na­puna/Pi­ar­co.

“We are eye­ing sev­en cor­po­ra­tions but hop­ing to achieve eight,” Lee dis­closed.

He said the UNC in­tends to use the re­sults of the 2019 lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion as a gauge for next year’s gen­er­al elec­tion.

Asked if this year’s elec­tion would be a tough fight, Lee said yes.

“It would be a hard fight. The PNM is in Gov­ern­ment right now. Once you are in Gov­ern­ment you have the up­per hand. We feel we have been do­ing the work that is re­quired over the last three and a half years in com­mu­ni­ties and con­stituen­cies.”

Lee said the PNM had not achieved any­thing since as­sum­ing of­fice in 2015.

“The peo­ple are not fools any­more. Time will tell when the elec­tion bell is called,” He said, stat­ing that the ma­jor­i­ty of cit­i­zens have been dis­en­chant­ed with ris­ing crime, mur­ders and a stag­nant econ­o­my.

Lee feels this year’s elec­tion will be called in Sep­tem­ber by Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley.

He said the key is­sue af­fect­ing the UNC con­trolled cor­po­ra­tions was lack of fund­ing to un­der­take in­fra­struc­tur­al works.

“We have on­ly been get­ting fund­ing to pay salaries. The UNC cor­po­ra­tions have been starved for fund­ing.”

In the last three and a half years, Lee said the par­ty’s mem­ber­ship has grown by 15 to 18 per cent, tak­ing the fig­ure to close to 100,000 which is just a frac­tion of its sup­port­ers.

“We feel we are on an up­swing as far as get­ting new par­ty mem­bers to join the UNC.”

Lee said they in­tend to have reg­u­lar meet­ings with the Elec­tions and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion to en­sure all their con­cerns are ad­dressed.

Ear­li­er this month, the PNM had ad­vised its par­ty groups to sub­mit nom­i­na­tions for lo­cal gov­ern­ment can­di­dates which be­gins on Wednes­day and clos­es on June 30, fol­low­ing which screen­ing will be­gin for its 137 can­di­dates.

PNM’s pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer, Lau­rel Leza­ma-Lee Sing said there was a slim chance of the UNC wrestling San­gre Grande and Tu­na­puna/Pi­ar­co from the PNM, as they have been de­liv­er­ing to burgess­es.

She said PNM was hope­ful of re­tain­ing the sev­en cor­po­ra­tions they cur­rent­ly con­trol “and most like­ly more. We are go­ing to put our best foot for­ward. We will let our work speak for it­self. I am not sure the UNC should be con­fi­dent of any­thing at all. I don’t think they (UNC) has any­thing to of­fer the coun­try.”

The PNM, Leza­ma-Lee Sing said, has a his­to­ry of be­ing “high­ly suc­cess­ful at the elec­tions by field­ing the best pos­si­ble can­di­dates. We have al­ways been peo­ple-cen­tred. We have al­ways been ded­i­cat­ed to ad­vanc­ing the cause, in­ter­est and needs of the peo­ple of T&T. We are on the path of progress.”

She said the Prime Min­is­ter has giv­en the as­sur­ance that both lo­cal and gen­er­al elec­tions will be held when they are con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly due.

- by Shaliza Hassanali

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