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Panday, Warner lead UNC Alliance

By CLINT CHAN TACK Friday, October 5 2007

click on pic to zoom in

JACK WARNER and Basdeo Panday will lead the UNC Alliance into the November 5 General Election. The announcement was made last night by both men following four hours of intense, closed-door discussions among members of the UNC Alliance leadership council at Emerald Plaza in St Augustine.

Warner’s “unanimous” appointment as UNC Alliance chairman relegated Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to a mere supporting role in the Alliance, but Panday hinted that any one of the Alliance’s members who wins a seat could become prime minister based on the provisions of the Constitution.

This could include former Attorney-General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj who is reportedly being considered to contest the Couva South seat if incumbent MP Kelvin Ramnath is unable to do so because of heart surgery in Canada. Panday has denied those reports.

Panday said his “partnership” with Warner, who will lead the Alliance into the election, will unite the country’s African and Indian voters who have been traditionally divided along racial and political lines.

He said if the electorate did not support the “new politics” which were being offered by the Warner-Panday team, “then the country will suffer enormous pains.”

Panday insisted he was not the de facto or de jure leader of the Alliance and Warner’s appointment was done in the country’s best interests. He boasted that unlike the PNM and Congress of the People (COP) only the UNC Alliance was serious about genuine political unity and the COP had until Nomination Day (October 15) to join with the Alliance.

On yesterday’s Privy Council ruling, Panday was confident about clearing his name and said he would be contesting Couva North for the UNC Alliance, “if the people want me.” Warner said he would work closely with Panday as leader of the “senior party (UNC)” in the Alliance and there would be a role for all of the other leaders in the Alliance’s council to secure victory at the polls.

Predicting the UNC Alliance would win non-traditional UNC seats, Panday said: “In those circumstances, that is the best time in which to determine who will be the prime minister after the elections is won and we know who is there.” Panday reiterated that because of the Alliance’s structure it was not putting forward a prime ministerial candidate in the same way as the PNM and COP.

Persad-Bissessar declined to comment on Warner’s appointment, saying Panday had already made a statement on behalf of the entire UNC Alliance leadership council of which she is a part.

The Opposition Leader had been touted in some quarters as the front runner to lead the UNC Alliance into the election. On Tuesday, COP Political Leader Winston Dookeran invited Persad-Bissessar to join his party but she rejected the invitation, insisting that she is a UNC member and Panday is her leader.

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