TRINIDAD – Gypsy jumps ship
Winston Peters resigns as minister and leaves UNC
PORT OF SPAIN –– Former People’s Partnership representative for Mayaro, Winston Gypsy Peters yesterday abandoned the ship of the United National Congress (UNC) by resigning as a minister and as a member of that party.
The man whose calypso Captain, The Ship Is Sinking –– which parodied the state of the country under the People’s National Movement (PNM) back in 1986 –– became a standard in the ensuing election which the PNM lost to the National Alliance For Reconstruction (NAR), described his own “captain”, prime minister and political leader of the UNC, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, yesterday as ungrateful.
He was quite bold during an afternoon radio interview, saying the UNC would lose the September 7 general election.
The calypsonian turned politician during that interview described what happened to him as the “final nail in the coffin”.
“I have helped in no small way, whether she [the prime minister] wants to acknowledge it or not,” the former minister of community development told a media conference at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain earlier.
“As a human being I find Kamla Persad-Bissessar to be the most ungrateful ingrate, if there was ever one who I have ever met. And as of today I have tendered my resignation from the United National Congress and tendered my resignation as a government minister from the Kamla Persad-Bissessar cabinet. I have divorced myself from
“In all that has happened, I have placed Kamla Persad-Bissessar where she is today,” a clearly angry Peters added.
Yesterday’s development came as a surprise to many as Peters, even after rejection by the UNC to contest the Mayaro seat after filing his papers early during the party’s nomination exercises at the Rienzi Complex, maintained his silence and was actually seen at party meetings and functions.
He called together members of the media yesterday to outline reasons for his resignation, chief of which was not being named as the party’s candidate for the Mayaro seat which he has held since 2000, losing only once in 2007.
Breaking his silence, Peters alluded to a tale of political mishandling and mischief, having heard talk within that constituency before, that he would not be chosen for the seat. The UNC eventually chose Rushton Paray as its candidate.
Peters said there were allegations that Paray had paid $5 million to contest the seat. The former minister said he was “hurt and disappointed” by the fact that he was not chosen after “I had done so much”. He told reporters: “I want to say to you as I stand before God and you, no other person in the UNC has supported Kamla Persad-Bissessar as much as I have!
“I have lost my friends,” he added, “I have lost family members, relations. I have lost large sums of money supporting Kamla Persad-Bissessar to get her to where she is today.”
Peters also gave up US citizenship to become involved in Trinidad politics.
Sitting among journalists at the Press conference was Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner, himself a divorcee from Persad-Bissessar’s cabinet and the UNC. Peters said he was Persad-Bissessar’s most vocal champion when “Ram-JackG” (an acronym for Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Jack Warner and Gypsy) challenged UNC founder and then political leader Basdeo Panday in 2009 for leadership of the party.
Peters said he saw leadership qualities in Persad-Bissessar and often sat and encouraged her “behind the Red House when she went outside to smoke a cigarette”. Peters said that on nomination day, Persad-Bissessar asked him if he would get vexed if he was not given the nod as the candidate for Mayaro “and I said I would be very angry, which I am right now!”.
The initial candidate Roger Morales, a teacher, was later replaced by Paray. Peters said he visited the prime minister’s home but Persad-Bissessar stayed inside and did not come out. He instead spoke to her nephew who promised to get back to him but never did.