UNC supporters assemble at Mid Centre Mall in Chaguanas
Event Date: October 07, 2007
Posted: October 14, 2007
The United National Congress Alliance held its election rally at Mid Centre Mall in Chaguanas on Sunday 7th October, 2007. Dubbed "Drums of Unity" it attracted thousands of supporters in orange wear as they crammed the car park, waving UNC-themed flags and banners. Many other supporters lined the side of the highway outside of the fence to get a view of what was going on. Huge pictures of Rosa Parks, Uriah 'Buzz' Butler, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Adrian Cola Rienzi and Bob Marley were prominently displayed by the stage as the Tassa and African drums rolled to signal the start of the event.
After the playing of the national anthem on the Pan by Shivanna Ragoonanan, the Mayor of Chaguanas, Suruj Rambachan, told the crowd that the UNC Alliance is committed to extinguishing hate and jealousy and ushering in love and unity. He expressed that between 1995 and 2001, when the UNC was in office, those were the best years the country has ever experienced. He outlined problems such as rising food prices, crime, and the dictatorship of Mr. Patrick Manning, as shown by judicial interference, as reasons why the PNM needs to be removed. He encouraged the crowd to say no to the manipulation of the judiciary by the PNM and they responded with a resounding "NO".
Steve Alvarez of the Democratic Party of Trinidad and Tobago (DPTT) directed salvoes towards both the PNM and COP as he sought to highlight the good that the UNC brought to the country during their time in office. Looking at the record of the PNM, he said that the people were victims of high food prices, crime and of the oppression of the Patrick Manning regime. He declared that never again must the country subject themselves to five years of the PNM government, to which the large crowd thunderously replied, "Never again!" He declared that the Congress of the People is hiding behind the screen of new politics and they would like people to believe they have no records for people to examine. He explained that a number of prominent COP members such as Winston Dookeran, Gerald Yetming, Ganga Singh and Selby Wilson were part of the NAR regime in the late 1980s which he described as the most draconian regime ever, one which imposed harsh and oppressive measures (such as VAT) on ordinary people. "They (COP) are far removed from the suffering of our people", he said.
The chairperson of the youth arm of the United National Congress, Afifah Mohammed, also addressed the crowd expressing that young people are faced with the negative stereotypes of older people. She said that young people are seeing the wealth of the nation being wasted away on tall buildings and multi-million dollar blimps. She outlined how young people are constantly threatened by discrimination and violence, living with constant fear of being kidnapped, but she said that young people are more aware of the dangers of smelter plants, and the need for the judiciary to be free from political control.
Martin Luther King III, Jack Warner and
the head of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation Subash Razdan
Special guest at the rally, Martin Luther King III, the son of famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King, addressed the crowd and highlighted his pleasure at being in Trinidad. He said that in the modern civil rights movement, his father always encouraged followers to become involved in the political process because elected officials make policies that affect our lives. He challenged all political parties to work towards unity and diversity. He said that there were times when people must take a decision that is neither safe, nor popular, nor politic, but that is right.
Suruj Ramcharan introduced the second guest, Subash Razdan, head of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation who expressed to the crowd that Mahatma Gandhi stood for the rights of Africans in South Africa as much as he stood for the rights of East Indians. Subash Razdan outlined that his foundation is committed to disseminating the principles of peace, love and non-violence as advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and proceeded to quote these two personalities. He remarked that the "Drums of Unity" embodies these principles and augers well for the nation.
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, whose allegation of corruption brought down the UNC government in 2001, seemed poised to be a prominent part of the UNC Alliance, as he stood on the platform to address the crowd. He cleared that the dictatorial Manning is making a mess of the country, so much so, that if he gets back into power he will make Guyana under Forbes Burnham look good. He said that the Manning administration has spent 13 billion dollars to fight crime over the last 6 years, and the more they spend, the more crime increases. He accused Manning of meeting with criminals and elevating them to community leaders, giving them huge government contracts resulting in gang warfare. Noting that the rise of kidnappings and extortions started under the PNM, he said that their handling of the country has resulted in a wave of violence, leaving people in great fear with people leaving the country in droves.
Turning his attention towards COP, Marahaj questioned the identity and motivations of the powerful people behind COP, and said that a group of academics, lawyers, doctors and engineers do not constitute a party. Mentioning his concern that COP would split the votes of the UNC, allowing PNM to win, he said he had tried unsuccessfully to get Winston Dookeran to talk unity with Mr. Panday.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who had consistently gotten the loudest applause and cheers among the UNC Alliance members from the crowd came to the platform to the sounds of Bob Marley's song "No Woman No Cry" and more loud cheers from the thousands gathered. She dismissed newspaper reports that she would be offered the post of President saying that she would remain a representative of the people. The events of the previous week which saw her surpassed for the position of leader in favour of Basdeo Panday and Jack Warner was obvious as her pointed speech contained sharp but indirect references to this situation. She said it has not been easy, and she is not going to come on stage and smile as in the past as if all was well, when all is not well in the nation. She said that she is bandaged but she is not going to crawl on her belly in order to save her head. "I want to tell my political enemies close to me and far away that Kamla is a woman who gets knocked down, but she gets up again and they are never going to keep me down," she said.
Kamla was careful, yet sharp in her words as she strongly emphasized her role as a mother and a woman, expressing that during her many years in politics she was often the lone female voice amidst a sea of men. Kamla declared that she did not want any political gifts from anyone as she spoke in depth about her struggles and battles over the years, even as she emphasized her continuing commitment to the UNC party. At one point during her speech, which lasted longer than her allotted ten minutes, Basdeo Panday became agitated apparently because Kamla was over her time, and had to be calmed by Wade Mark.
Basdeo Panday addresses the crowd
Basdeo Panday was the last speaker of the rally, and he went to great lengths to defuse the tension surrounding selection of himself and Jack Warner as leaders of the UNC Alliance ahead of Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He explained that the UNC alliance is not a political party, but was a coalition of political parties. Panday declared that each candidate who wins his/her seat will have an equal chance to be Prime Minister. He also revealed Kamla Persad-Bissessar's special role as head of the women's arm of the UNC Alliance. He also told the crowd that he said that he is going to propose Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj as a special advisor on crime and public service. Confessing that he had not consulted with anyone, not even Kamla or Ramesh, he said he was going to consult the greatest authority in the land, the people, and proceeded to ask the crowd if they were in support of his proposals to which they roared their approval.
Referring to COP as 'corpses' he piconged that corpses cannot stand up for anyone or anything, further questioning how people can vote for Dookeran for Prime Minister when he cannot even win his own seat. While Panday also criticized Patrick Manning and the PNM for being vicious and malicious he borrowed part of Martin Luther King's famous speech, saying that he had a dream where one day people would be united across lines of race, class, colour, ethnicity and creed.
Twenty-one candidates who will be contesting the 2007 General Election on a UNC Alliance ticket were then presented to the national community.
UNC Alliance leader Jack Warner gets close to the crowd
Also speaking at the rally were UNC Alliance Chairman Jack Warner who explained the seven rays of sunlight in the UNC symbol represented the seven leaders of the UNC Alliance; Dr. Carson Charles, leader of the Trinidad arm of the NAR; and Lennox Smith of Laventille for Laventillians political party.
There were many entertaining performances throughout the rally by Blazer, Orange Sky, Rakesh Yankeran, Adesh Samaroo, Mr. King, LH Pan Groove, Denise Belfon, Shiv Shakti Dancers and the Ile Aiye performing company from the Bahia region in Brazil. The crowd, one of the largest for the election political season by any political party, certainly enjoyed themselves.
UNC Alliance Election Rally in pictures:
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