Saturday AUGUST 24, Newsday
Reports yesterday indicate that Wendell Mottley's Citizens Alliance and the United National Congress led by Basdeo Panday are close to reaching an agreement to contest the October general election under an umbrella party.
It has been proposed that the new entity, which would be led by Mottley will be named either the United National Alliance (UNA) or the United Citizens Alliance (UCA), UNC sources said yesterday.
Mottley who has consistently denied any move to join forces with the UNC, was unavailable for comment last night. Mr Panday is in the USA on a fund raising drive.
According to party insiders, UNC leader Basdeo Panday, has all but consented to the alliance which was proposed two weeks ago by his party financiers.
The deal is that Mottley would contest either the Tunapuna or St Augustine seat as leader of the new party. Panday would contest his usual constituency of Couva North. If the UNA or UCA wins the poll, Panday will be proposed for the Presidency while Mottley will become Prime Minister.
However, there are some concerns about the proposal for Panday to become President given controversies over a London bank account, and other matters in which he is currently embroiled. Sources said that at an executive meeting of CA last weekend, members were told that Panday had agreed to the establishment of the coalition, and to yield the leadership to Mottley. Citizens Alliance executive members are said to be very enthusiastic about these recent developments in their talks with the UNC, which is why they backed out of last week's planned meeting with the NAR.
Panday's agreement, however, is said to have been reluctantly given, but one source said that if he has in fact agreed to give way to Mottley it is only because of pressure from party financiers who have been holding back their support. It is said to be one of the reasons why Panday has had to go abroad for funds to fight the election. Sources said yesterday that Panday was taken by surprise when the financiers made the Mottley proposal to him some weeks ago.
He is reported to have responded angrily to them, dismissing it out of hand. He was also said to have told them that the only chance the UNC had at returning to government was in an alliance with Ramesh Maharaj, who broke with the UNC in December last.
But the financiers threatened to withhold funding for the campaign if Panday entered any alliance with Maharaj or go it alone.
Sources said yesterday that the UNC financiers want Mottley to lead because they are concerned about the effect Panday's political problems will have on the party's electoral chances.
Financiers strongly believe that the UNC under Panday's leadership cannot win the elections, and as such, they want the party to enter a strategic electoral alliance with other forces.
They said the financiers are confident the alliance under Mottley, and with Winston Dookeran as a candidate in the new alliance will win the elections. They have committed themselves to funding the alliance's campaign, and have also offered to pay Panday for his early retirement from politics.
Sources added that some of the financiers were initially thinking of a UNC reconciliation with Team Unity led by Ramesh Maharaj, believing the party would win the elections or at a least, retain its 18 seats if Maharaj was brought back into the party.
However, other financiers were opposed to such a move, believing that Maharaj could not be easily controlled and as such, financiers could not be depend on getting their favourite projects easily approved once the UNC in office is led by Maharaj. In addition, nearly half of the current UNC MPs are opposed to a return of Maharaj into the party, feeling this would affect their chances of rising to the leadership of their party.
Sources said that some UNC MPs are furious that Panday has all but consented to the formation of an alliance with Mottley. At least two of them have indicated they will not contest the elections in a Mottley/UNC pact, but are more favourable towards a Maharaj alliance.
These MPs are concerned that the financiers have not taken into consideration the baggage that Mottley, by being a former PNM Minister, brings into the alliance and feel that a party under his stewardship would turn off many traditional UNC voters and lead the new alliance to a resounding defeat at the polls. They are also worried about Mottley's close relationship with the party financiers, evidence of which is seen in his current expensive advertising campaign.
The details of the arrangement still have to be worked out, as Panday is said to be unwilling to give Mottley the safe St Augustine seat, but would prefer him to contest the marginal Tunapuna. The seat arrangement will be worked out after the alliance has been formally set up.
Citizens Alliance, earlier this week, missed a meeting with the National Alliance for Reconstruction, called to discuss a possible coalition between the two groups.
It now seems unlikely that CA will form a pact with either the NAR or Team Unity, considering that its chances are better with the UNC.
Mottley's first office was opened in Tunapuna earlier this year. His deputy leader is the brother of UNC MP for St Joseph, Carlos John. On August 10 Mottley's CA held a "Meditation on Character" seminar at the Cascadia Hotel which was attended by UNC member for Pointe-a-Pierre Gillian Lucky.
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