By RIA TAITT, www.newsday.co.tt
Good for Gillian! But there is no turning back for the Pointe-a-Pierre MP. She is not going to be able to survive in the UNC. This was the reaction of former MP Hulsie Bhaggan who crossed swords with UNC leader Basdeo Panday years ago and ended up paying the ultimate political price for it. It was the death knell to what many thought was going to be a promising political career.
Bhaggan, in commenting on Newsday's report about the clash between Gillian Lucky and Panday, stated even if Lucky recanted, she would not be truly forgiven. "When the next election comes around, the UNC is going to get rid of her," the former MP stated. Bhaggan said she wanted to commend "Gillian" on her "upright position."
"I know her personally. She is a person of integrity, very strong-willed and assertive. It is about time somebody within the UNC takes that kind of stand against the one-man show," Bhaggan said.
But, she added, "knowing the people there as I do, many of whom have no integrity of their own or principle," Lucky may end up with problems getting the support of her peers. Bhaggan said senior UNC members were prepared to sacrifice everything for a position.
"My advice to her is go to the party supporters. She should not fight from within the (parliamentary) caucus because it consists mainly of yes-men and yes-women of Basdeo Panday...they are a bunch of cowards. If she has to fight, she has to battle with him (Panday) in the streets and in the communities. And she has to make her views public," the former Chaguanas MP stated.
Bhaggan said now was a good time for Lucky to start mobilising the resources outside of the caucus. "There are lots of people who want to see him (Panday) and the deadweights around him go," she said. Saying that Panday was on the decline, Bhaggan said a lot of people in the UNC were fed up and in fact a lot people in the country generally were looking for a strong principled person to lead them.
She said many of the persons in the frontlines of the UNC were "political eunuchs," who were not interested in integrity, morality and country, but were only in politics for what they could get. "When they were in power it was a feeding frenzy, because they have no principle," she said.
Asked whether she believed Lucky would have a harder battle because she was a woman, Bhaggan said that while the UNC's internal party structure was very male-dominated and did not support women as leaders, in the wider public gender made no difference.
Former Minister Trevor Sudama who also ran into conflict with Panday, said that while the jury was out on whether or not Lucky can survive, the historical experience showed that anyone who opposed the UNC leader did not.
Echoing Bhaggan's sentiments, Sudama said: "Whether it will be any different this time depends on how much support she (Lucky) can muster within the party at large," since the real test was with the membership, not the caucus.
Sudama said the country had a history - not only the UNC, but also the PNM - where once a person took a different position from the leader, it was misinterpreted as seeking to undermine the party. "You are labelled traitor, disloyal. I went through that mill," he said.
He said it was now left to be seen whether the party had a life of its own and an opinion of its own, rather than just serving as the handmaiden of the political leader.
Asked whether the issues of morality and integrity were subordinate principles in politics (as reportedly suggested by UNC leader Basdeo Panday), Sudama stated that as far as he was concerned one could not compromise on integrity.
"But the basic question is really how is integrity going to be interpreted by the rank and file. There is a personal criteria and a general criteria of what constitutes integrity."
Lucky clashed with Panday at a UNC caucus on Thursday night over her decision to sign the Privileges Committee Report on the tearoom brawl between UNC Chandresh Sharma and PNM Dr Keith Rowley. Before storming out of the meeting, Lucky reportedly stated: "I stand by the Report (of the Privileges Committee) and I have no intention of compromising my integrity.
"I will not leave the UNC because I am not Hulsie Bhaggan or Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj. I intend to stay and fight within. I am here to do a job and to fight for what is right, and to stick to my principles."
The statement was made after Panday reportedly told Lucky that politics had a morality of its own and that if her integrity was more important than politics, she should leave politics. He also told her that she should learn to be a team player. He added that her professional integrity could not always come first.
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