Bharath, who unsuccessfully campaigned for UNC chairman on the slate of former political leader Basdeo Panday, yesterday split from a dwindling group of Panday loyalists who indicated that they intend to boycott a planned meeting of the party’s parliamentary caucus at which Persad-Bissessar will discuss the post of Opposition Leader today.
On Saturday, Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh announced his backing of Persad-Bissessar to become the seventh MP to support her to replace Panday as Opposition Leader.
Noting that Persad-Bissessar will be appointed as Opposition Leader, Bharath yesterday said, “If I am going to stay in the party I am going to have to support her.”
Asked if he would sign a letter to be despatched to President George Maxwell Richards indicating support of the Siparia MP for the post, he said he was ready to sign but contingent upon being allowed to air certain “reservations” he still has with Persad-Bissessar.
“It depends on the timing,” Bharath said, “If it comes before I am able to speak with her then, No. But if it comes after we can settle on certain things and my reservations are addressed then so be it, Yes.”
While Bharath had in the past expressed unreserved loyalty to Panday, he explained that his position was now changed due to the fact that Persad-Bissessar has achieved the support needed to take over the post of Opposition Leader.
“I made a commitment to Mr Panday and I gave him my support and I truly also am of the belief that as a country and people our credibility is displayed by how we treat our elders and leaders,” he said. “Having given my word I could not pull it at a time when he needed it the most. The fact is that Mrs Persad-Bissessar is now the Leader of the Opposition and ...therefore I will have no choice but to support her.”
Bharath, who returned from a one-week trip to London on official Parliament business last Wednesday, said he hopes to speak with Persad-Bissessar today at a planned meeting of UNC MPs scheduled to begin at 2.30 pm at Rienzi Complex, Couva. Noting that he hopes to attend a funeral first, at about 1.30 pm, he said he had some issues to discuss, one of them being the treatment of Panday. Newsday understands that Bharath met with Panday at Panday’s home on Sunday afternoon and that Bharath communicated his position to him.
Panday and Couva South MP Kelvin Ramnath have indicated that they will not attend today’s meeting. Both were due to meet with Princes Town North MP Subhas Panday, Oropouche West MP Mickela Panday and Tabaquite MP Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj last evening at Ramnath’s home in south Trinidad. The meeting came as Persad-Bissessar was due to hold a public meeting in the Couva South MP’s heartland at Dow Village, California.
Ramnath said he could not say whether he would sign a letter in support of Persad-Bissessar, but made it clear that he will not attend today’s meeting because of his view that the process of consultation with MPs has been defective.
However, Ramnath said he would follow the party line in Parliament under Persad-Bissessar as Opposition Leader. Maharaj said he would despatch a letter to Persad-Bissessar outlining his position in the event that he does not attend today’s meeting.
Last evening, at the Dow Village public meeting, Persad-Bissessar said she held her hand on sending the letter with seven signatures to the President over the weekend because she wanted to “have consensus” and “due process” which were the reasons for today’s caucus.
After he appeared before a Port-of-Spain magistrate for retrial on charges of failing to declare financial assets as a public servant, Panday told reporters yesterday there was no need for him to step down from his position as there “was no vacancy” until he received the “appropriate communication” from the President.
Panday said he felt betrayed by Gopeesingh since he was assured by the doctor that he would not be supporting Persad-Bissessar. Despite this, Panday said he was not concerned about any impact that this “change in allegiance” would have on his relationship with Gopeesingh as his bailor in an ongoing court matter where he is facing corruption charges.
“That matter has no relevance on the other,” Panday said.