By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Vice president of the senate and long standing member of the United National Congress (UNC) Lyndira Oudit has defected from the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led People’s Partnership coalition government to Jack Warner’s newly formed Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
Oudit resigned from both posts on Tuesday. She told the media she resigned because the government is going down the wrong road of governance. She says they hold different philosophical views when it comes to politics and that they were on divergent paths.
This is the third resignation that has undercut the People’s Partnership government and the UNC, the leading partner in the coalition itself.
Sitting member of parliament for St Joseph and former high court judge Herbert Volney, who was fired from the government in 2012 over the controversial “section 34” legislation, also resigned his UNC membership on July 30.
But the foundation of the People’s Partnership government, perhaps unknown to the parties concerned at the time, faced its first threat with the resignation of Jack Warner as national security minister back in April of this year. Warner later resigned as chairman of the UNC and as member of parliament for Chaguanas West; only to re-contest the seat – for the people of Chaguanas West to revalidate him, he said.
Warner convincingly won the UNC heartland seat in a by-election battle on July 29 for his newly formed ILP. More than just the ground shifting under the UNC and subsequently the government, it was a tectonic shift in the political landscape.
Oudit confirmed her decision to join Warner’s ILP on CNC3 television on Wednesday morning. Caribbean News Now understands that Oudit’s admitted affection and love for Warner stemmed from the principled position he took on her behalf when Persad-Bissessar refused to make Oudit a member of the newly formed coalition government in 2010, having won the general elections in a landslide.
It was believed that, on principle, Persad-Bissessar owed Oudit a debt of gratitude for the support she showed her during her 2010 bid to become political leader of the UNC.
Under Basdeo Panday’s opposition leadership, Oudit was a senator, but was stripped of the post on the instructions of Panday when she announced her support for Persad-Bissessar, who was at the time vying for the leadership of the UNC.
Oudit was reappointed senator after Persad-Bissessar won the leadership race in the UNC 2010 internal election, sending Panday into earlier retirement from active politics than he anticipated. Oudit won the deputy political leadership in the same UNC internal election.
Today, talking about Oudit’s decision to jump ship, the prime minister said she is not concerned by Oudit’s decision to quit and “join another party”, which is in fact Oudit’s democratic right, the prime minister said.
The journalist in the middle – who muddied the relationship between Oudit and the prime minister?
Caribbean News Now has been reliably informed that, from inception of the People’s Partnership government, the actions of a local journalist caused the rift between Persad-Bissessar and Oudit.
The well known political reporter apparently recorded Oudit’s opinions about Persad-Bissessar and made the recorded material available to the prime minister unknown to Oudit. The source explained that the journalist approached Oudit in a friendly manner and lured her (Oudit) into a political discourse, when the journalist questioned the former senator’s true feelings about Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar. What went back to Persad-Bissessar did not make the prime minister happy.
Oudit was treated unfairly from that moment on.
According to local sources, Oudit was to contest a seat in the 2010 general election under the UNC faction of the coalition but, when that did not materialize, it was thought that she would be given a senatorial ministerial portfolio. That did not happen either and sources have confirmed to Caribbean News Now that Oudit was not intended to get a position in the People’s Partnership government. It was Warner who stood up for Oudit on principle and asked the prime minister to do the right thing. Oudit was then made a senator but was not given a ministerial post; instead she was relegated to the vice president of the senate position.
People’s Partnership Government could face more blood-letting
Based on previous patterns, analysts believe the People’s Partnership government may suffer more hemorrhaging.
Oudit, Volney, community development minister Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters and Health Minister Fuad Khan all showed support for Warner when he faced off against the UNC’s top brass in an internal election for the chairmanship of the party. Warner came out of that battle with more than twelve thousand votes (12,656), as he dealt his opponents a shellacking, and a similar score to that of his recent by-election victory, where he received a total of 12, 631 votes.
Approximately 15,000 members came out to vote in the UNC internal election in 2012; 3,000 shy of the just the just over 18,000 that voted in the July 29 by-election.
And even more resignations…
Meantime, the People’s Partnership government suffered yet another blow when chairman of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) Lionel Coker resigned as chairman of the party. The TOP is also a partner in the People’s Partnership coalition. Coker has not given any indication about what he intends to do next. There is a suspicion that he could be Warner’s ILP representative in Tobago.
Opposition leader Keith Rowley in trouble too
Meanwhile, chairman of the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM), Senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, said she is willing to challenge Keith Rowley for the political leadership of the PNM. Also on local radio on Wednesday morning, outgoing mayor of Port of Spain and long standing member of the PNM, Louis Lee Sing, said he too is willing to challenge Rowley for the party leadership if the opportunity presents itself, using the exact words of Beckles when asked the same question. Later in the interview he made it clear he will in fact contest the political leadership of the PNM.