After a roller coaster week in which she declared her allegiance to the United National Congress (UNC) and also filed nomination papers two Sundays ago, former Congress of the People (COP) member Marlene Coudray emerged victorious last Saturday in the UNC’s internal election.
Coudray who weathered a barrage of political missiles thrown from the COP and even within the UNC, won one of three Deputy Political Leader posts up for grabs in the internal election.
With all of the picong, insults, innuendoes and condemnation that is part and parcel of the cut- and-thrust of politics, one would have expected Coudray to be blowing her horns, beating her chest and proclaiming vindication yesterday.
Instead, she was cool and calm. She did not throw any barb or insult at her detractors and instead, thanked the UNC membership for placing their faith in her, by way of voting 7,635 times for her.
Speaking to Newsday yesterday at an Easter Bonnet show at Prive in La Romaine, where her seven-year-old granddaughter Danielle Coudray was a contestant, the San Fernando Mayor said the election results proved that the UNC membership would not easily fall into the trap of listening to picong and “ole talk”.
“People underestimate the mentality of Trinbagonians and think they are stupid. Now they can identify and understand propaganda. This result sends a clear message to those who have been up and down the airwaves, in the print and electronic media, with all kinds of negative things about me, that UNC membership would not respond ole talk, sour grapes or what have you,” Coudray said.
The mayor copped 7,635 votes on the Nationalist slate which is led by Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, who was returned as a UNC deputy political leader. Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan, another Nationalist member, won the third Deputy Political Leader seat that was up for grab.
Coudray said that she was “extremely happy” with her victory which she dubbed a victory for women. “This was a victory for women everywhere and we women must learn to stand strong against all odds. Women must learn to stand up for what they believe in. I am very happy and grateful to the UNC membership for showing confidence in me despite all negative reports that surrounded me for the past week and believe you me it was quite a lot,” Coudray said.
Mere hours after she left UNC headquarters at Rienzi Complex in Couva two Sundays ago after filing her nomination papers, Coudray began taking heat from several sides. COP chairman Joseph Toney slammed the move saying the UNC had poached Coudray from the COP. Moonilal fired back, saying it was mass poaching from the UNC which led to the formation and birth of the COP.
COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar was also not happy warning that such incidents could affect unity and cohesiveness in the People’s Partnership, which comprises five political entities: the UNC, COP, the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), Movement for Social Justice (MSJ and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC).
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who refuted claims of poaching by saying Coudray is a strong woman who cannot be poached, has since summoned the leaders of the parties in the partnership, to a high-level meeting to discuss several issues.
Yesterday, Coudray said that campaigning in the run up to the election was grueling.
Moonilal told reporters on Saturday night that he was proud of all candidates and he further congratulated them for taking the bold step in participating in the democracy of the party .
“A victory for the Nationalists is a victory for the country because we believe we can strengthen the party. Apart from the picong, which is a part of politics, I thought the campaign itself was of a high calibre. Imagine so much people came out today to cast their votes in an internal election,” Moonilal said.
How Coudray, as UNC deputy political leader, will work within the executive of the party especially as some senior UNC members including Cabinet members, had openly criticised her defection from the COP and participation in the election, remains to be seen.
Both Ramadhar and COP party chairman Toney, could not be reached for comment yesterday on Coudray’s victory as they were said to be attending a meeting at the party’s headquarters in Charlieville. Asked if this meeting was called specifically to discuss Coudray’s rise within the UNC executive, our COP source refused to comment.
(SEE ELECTION RESULTS ON PAGE 5)