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