United National Congress

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United National Congress
LeaderKamla Persad-Bissessar[1]
ChairpersonPeter Kanhai[2]
General SecretaryDavendranath Tancoo[3]
FounderBasdeo Panday
Founded30 April 1989 (1989-04-30)
Merger ofCLUB '88[4]
HeadquartersCouva, Couva–Tabaquite–Talparo, Trinidad and Tobago
Youth wingUNC Youth Arm
Women's wingUNC Women’s Arm
Membership (2015)95,000+
IdeologyDemocratic socialism
Social democracy
Third Way
Political positionCenter-left[5]
Colors Yellow
Political coalitionPeople's Partnership
House of Representatives
17 / 41
6 / 31
Regional municipalities
56 / 137
Regional corporations
6 / 14
Coat of arms of Trinidad and Tobago.svg
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The United National Congress (UNC) is one of the two major political parties in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and one of the main parties in the current opposition. It was founded by Basdeo Panday, a lawyer and former trade unionist. The UNC was formed as the result of a split in the ruling National Alliance for Reconstruction in 1988. After spending six years in opposition, the UNC won control of the government in 1995 (initially in coalition with the National Alliance for Reconstruction and later on its own). In the 2000 general elections, the UNC won an absolute majority in the Parliament. In 2001, a split in the party caused the UNC to lose its parliamentary majority and control of the government. Between 1991 and 1995, and again from 2001 to 2010, the UNC was the Parliamentary Opposition party. In May 2010, the UNC returned to government as the majority party in the People's Partnership. With this victory, the UNC's political leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar was sworn in as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the first woman to hold this position. Historically, the UNC has been supported by a majority of Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians (Hindu Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians especially), and the different minorities of the country.[6][7] The UNC is also colloquially called the Indian Party or the Hindu Party.[8] The party symbol is the rising sun above the Trinity Hills.

Opposition party[edit]

The party was founded on 30 April 1989 following a split in the ruling National Alliance for Reconstruction. In that split 6 MPs (including Panday) all of whom were former members of the United Labour Front left the NAR to form the Caucus for Love, Unity and Brotherhood 1988 (CLUB 88) which was chaired by Pt. Dr. Rampersad Parasram, the current Dharmacharya of Trinidad and Tobago appointed by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha. CLUB’88 evolved into the United National Congress with Panday as leader and Pt. Dr. Rampersad Parasram as its first chairman. Panday had also been the leader of the United Labour Front

The UNC won 13 seats in the 1991 General Elections and became the official opposition. It won a 14th seat in a by-election and gained another in 1995 when Ralph Maraj defected from the PNM. In 1995 Hulsie Bhaggan, MP for Chaguanas left the party to form the Movement for Unity and Progress (MUP).

The UNC formed the Government of Trinidad and Tobago between 1995- 2001 and was returned to government in May 2010 in partnership with the Congress of the People, NJAC, MSJ and TOP (a Tobago-based Party). Mrs. Kamla Persad Bissessar is the current political leader and Opposition leader (2015–2020).

Governing party[edit]

In General Elections held in 1995 the UNC won 17 of 36 seats, and formed a coalition government with the National Alliance for Reconstruction which won 2 seats. In exchange for his support, NAR political leader A. N. R. Robinson was first appointed Minister Extraordinaire and then elected President in 1997. Two PNM MPs defected from the party and supported the UNC as independent members. This gave the UNC an absolute majority, and led to deterioration in relations with the NAR.

In the 2000 elections the UNC won 19 seats forming the government outright. However, internal party elections in 2001 highlighted a rift in the party with Panday and Attorney-General Ramesh Maharaj in effect fielding rival slates. Maharaj's slate termed itself 'Team Unity'. Panday was not challenged as Political Leader but Maharaj's slate won 21 of the 24 other executive posts. Maharaj himself was elected as the new Deputy Leader.

This did not translate into increased prestige for Maharaj in the government as Panday refused to recommend Maharaj as Acting Prime Minister in his absence. Maharaj countered by initiating investigations into charges of corruption by Panday and his supporters. Panday then reduced the ministerial portfolios of Maharaj and his supporters. This led to the defection of Maharaj; Agriculture Minister, Trevor Sudama and Information Technology Minister, Ralph Maraj who formed the new party Team Unity. This led to the calling of early elections in 2001 in which the UNC were reduced to 18 seats in the House of Representatives. The opposition People's National Movement, which also won 18 seats, was called upon to form the government.

Opposition again[edit]

At the last legislative elections, 7 October 2002, the party won 46.5% of popular votes and 16 out of 36 seats in the House of Representatives. This made it the opposition in parliament to the ruling People's National Movement (PNM) government, which held the other 20 seats.

In April 2005, the UNC was further weakened when Pointe-à-Pierre MP Gillian Lucky and San Juan MP Fuad Khan declared themselves to be "independent UNC members" and relocated to the Opposition backbenches. On 31 May 2005, Basdeo Panday, together with his wife Oma, former UNC MP Carlos John and party financier Ishwar Galbaransingh were arrested for bribery. Basdeo Panday refused bail and remained in prison for eight days.

On 2 September 2005, Panday announced that he would be willing to hand over party leadership to Winston Dookeran (St. Augustine M.P.) if Panday could remain on as party chairman [1]. As a result of negotiations between the two, Dookeran was nominated unopposed for the post of Political Leader and Panday was nominated unopposed for the party Chairmanship. However, both fielded rival slates for the remaining 16 executive posts. (The party had reorganized itself, reducing the executive from 25 to 18 posts, but also splitting the deputy leadership into three.)

On 2 October, Basdeo Panday's slate won 12 of the posts including two of the three deputy leader positions and (after a recount) the vice-chairmanship. Dookeran's slate won the 4 remaining posts. Members of the slate backed by Dookeran have called for Basdeo Panday to step down as Leader of the Opposition. Gerald Yetming, MP for St. Joseph joined the Opposition back benches in protest of Basdeo Panday's failure to relinquish the position of Leader of the Opposition.

In February 2006, Panday announced that he had reconciled with Ramesh Maharaj. Maharaj was to mark his return to the party by speaking at a party rally held at Mid-Centre Mall in Chaguanas on 19 February. At that rally Dookeran, who spoke before Maharaj, criticized his party for accepting Maharaj back in. Dookeran was roundly booed by the crowd.

On 8 March 2006, Yetming announced he was formally leaving the UNC and would serve out his term as an Independent. His chief reason was the return of Maharaj to the UNC, a move which he opposed but which was endorsed by Basdeo Panday.

As internal wranglings continued in the party it appeared that a rift between Dookeran and the Executive was deepening. Newspaper accounts indicated that pro-Panday executive and Dookeran were largely functioning independently of each other. Dookeran also suffered a loss of support as Deputy Leader Jack Warner and Roodal Moonilal (MP for Oropouche), switched sides and announced their support of Panday.

In March Senator Robin Montano had his appointment as Senator revoked by Panday. Montano had both supported Dookeran and opposed the return of Ramesh Maharaj to the UNC.

On 24 April Basdeo Panday was convicted of fraud for failing to disclose a bank account under the rules of the Integrity Act. He was sentenced to 2 years hard labour. At the UNC rally held that night Dookeran was not permitted to speak on the platform. Maharaj, however was seated centre stage at that rally.

On 25 April Basdeo Panday's appointment as Opposition Leader was revoked by President Richards. On 26 April in a surprise move seven UNC MPs announced their support of Deputy Political Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar as the new Opposition Leader. On 27 April Persad-Bissessar was appointed Opposition Leader and she stated that she would step aside should Panday's appeal prove successful.

The Courts released Basdeo Panday on bail on Friday 28 April, on the ground of his medical ailments.[9] Following his release on bail, he tendered his resignation as Chairman of the party on 1 May 2006.[10] However, the UNC executive have thus far refused to accept his resignation.[11]

In the months following, the infighting in the UNC increased. Political Leader Dookeran and the party Executive entrenched their opposing positions. Dookeran organised his own personal political apparatus and held political meetings without the Executive's consent. He also ceased to attend Executive meeting. His few allies on the executive were removed. Opposition Leader Persad-Bissessar also replaced Dookeran's supporters in the appointed Senate.

In August 2006, however Panday returned to active politics and in a public display attempted to broker a reconciliation between the two factions. This proved fruitless. Many people in the country including members of Mr. Panday's own support team privately shared the view that it was Mr. Panday who worked behind the scene to undermine Mr. Dookeran's support within the Executive of the UNC. Mr Dookeran who was the actual and legitimate Political Leader of the UNC should have the full powers that accompanies that position as articulated in the Party's Constitution. However, Mr. Dookeran's call for internal change within the UNC had a negative effect on some of the 'old guards' who felt their own position threatened. Panday and the Executive spoke about a collective leadership concept, but the culture of the UNC with Mr. Panday was opposed to that claim.

The UNC was split into two factions, with the Panday loyalists organised into a five-member Leadership Council. The Leadership Council was composed of the three Deputy Leaders (Persad -Bissessar, Wade Mark, Jack Warner), the Party CEO Tim Gopeesingh and newly returned Ramesh L. Maharaj. Panday was said to have been appointed as an advisor to the Council.

On 10 September at a large rally, Dookeran announced his resignation as UNC Political Leader and the formation of a new party the Congress of the People, under his leadership. On 11 September Panday resumed the Chairmanship of the party.

On 3 January 2007, Panday was reinstated as Political leader of the party.

2007 general elections[edit]

e • d Summary of the 5 November 2007 House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago election results
Parties Votes % Seats
People's National Movement 299,813 45.85 26
United National Congress–Alliance 194,425 29.73 15
Congress of the People 148,041 22.64 0
Democratic Action Congress 8,801 1.35 0
Democratic National Assembly 376 0.01 0
Independents 120 0.00 0
Total valid (turnout 66%) 651,576 100.00 41
Invalid 2,306
Total 653,882
Source: EBC

In the 5 November 2007 parliamentary elections, the party won 29.73% and 15 out of 41 seats.[12]

New Political Leader[edit]

On 24 January 2010, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, an MP representing Siparia, was elected the new leader of the United National Congress.[13] Her victory, with 13,932 votes over 1,359 for party founder Basdeo Panday and 1,072 for fellow challenger Ramesh Maharaj, MP representing Tabaquite, made Persad-Bissessar the first female leader of a major political party in Trinidad and Tobago.

Government once more[edit]

e • d Summary of the 24 May 2010 House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago election results
Parties Votes % Seats
People's Partnership Coalition 432,026 60.03 29
People's National Movement 285,354 39.65 12
New National Vision 1,998 0.28 0
Independents 349 0.05 0
Total valid (turnout 69.45%) 719,727 100.00 41
Invalid 2,595
Total 722,322
Source: EBC

Based on a campaign of change against the PNM, the UNC was successful in the 2010 general election on 24 May 2010, and Persad-Bissessar was appointed as the first ever female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. The UNC won a majority of 19 seats but they ran as a coalition with the Congress of the People (winning 6 seats), and the Tobago Organization of the People (winning 2 seats, both of Tobago's seats), giving the coalition a total of 27 seats. Since that time the coalition has seen signs of weakening. The Movement for Social Justice, which did not win any seats in the election, left the coalition due to discontent with running of the government. The Tobago Organization of the People failed to win a single seat in the 2013 Tobago House of Assembly elections.

During 2013, the party lost 2 seats in by-elections in St. Joseph and Chaguanas West respectively.

Return to opposition[edit]

e • d Summary of the 7 September 2015 House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago election results
Parties Votes % Seats
People's National Movement 378,447 51.68% 23
People's Partnership Coalition 341,597 46.64% 18
Independent Liberal Party 5,123 0.70% 0
Others 7,173 0.98% 0
Total valid votes 732,340 100.00 41
Invalid/blank votes 2,452
Total (turnout 66.84%) 734,792 100
Source: EBC

In the 2015 General Elections, the party won 17 of the 41 seats in the elections to form the main Opposition party in the 11th parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar was appointed Leader of the Opposition by President Anthony Carmona on 21 September 2015.

Political Leaders[edit]

# Incumbent Portrait Prime Minister Opposition Leader Tenure
Took office Left office
1 Basdeo Panday Basdeo Panday.jpg 1995–2001 1990–1995
16 October 1988 2 October 2005
2 Winston Dookeran Winston Dookeran (cropped).jpg N/A N/A 2 October 2005 10 September 2006
3 Basdeo Panday Basdeo Panday.jpg N/A 2007–2010 10 September 2006 24 January 2010
4 Kamla Persad-Bissessar Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago visits the Senedd Prif Weinidog Trinidad a Tobago yn ymweld â’r Senedd.jpg 2010–2015 2006–2007
2015 – present
24 January 2010 Present

Internal elections[edit]

The internal election was held on 5 December 2015. There was some controversial issues involved, that there is no surety that the Kamla Persad-Bissessar won. This is because ballots were found in favour of Dr. Roodal Moonilal at a river and at the back of a school used for conducting the internal election. Strangely enough, the ballots were left out in the open with no visible signs of any attempt to destroy or hide them. There was also the issue of names being found twice on the voting list, which would meant that one individual may have been able to vote twice. Dr. Moonilal has since filed a complaint for these issues to be rectified.

Members of the National Executive of the Party[edit]

Political Leader= Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar,MP General Secretary - Davendranath Tancoo

Deputy Political Leaders=

Senator Khadijah Ameen

Dr. David Lee, MP

Ms. Jearlean John

Chairman= Mr. Peter Kanhai

Vice Chairman= Alderman Clifton DeCorteau

Policy & Strategy Officer= Mr. Arnold Ram

Education Officer= Ms. Maria Rodriguez

Research Officer= Dr. Karlene Sookoo

Elections Officer= Mr. Don Sylvester

Treasurer= Dr. Rai Ragbir

Party Organizer= Alderman Ravi Ratiram

International Relations Officer= Mr. Nicholas Morris

Northeast Regional Representative= Senator Brian Baig

South Regional Representative= Councillor Shanti Boodram

Northwest Regional Representative= Mr. Eli Zakour

Central Regional Representative= Imam Rasheed Karim

Tobago Regional Representative= Mr. Bheemal Ramlogan

Youth Officer- Councillor Chris Arshad Hosein

Women's Affairs Officer- Dr. Catherine Ali

Public Relations Officer= Senator Anita Haynes

Youth Arm[edit]

The new Executive members of the UNC Youth Arm are as follows:

Chris Arshad Hosein – Chairman

Kumarie Kuarsingh – Vice Chairman

Nicholas H. Kanhai – Secretary

Inool Nabbie- Assistant Secretary

Glen Birsingh – Treasurer

Shazana Anisa Mohammed – Welfare Officer

Shayanne Ishmael – Public Relations Officer

Women's Arm[edit]

The new Executive members of the UNC Women’s Arm are as follows:

Dr. Catherine Ali – Chairman

Dharia Nelson Seales – Vice Chairman

Reshma Maharaj – Secretary

Natasha Noel – Assistant Secretary

Asha Sooknanan – Treasurer

J-Lynn Roopnarine – Welfare Officer

Marissa V Ramlogan – Public Relations Officer


  1. ^ "Political Leader". 6 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Chairman". 6 March 2014.
  3. ^ "General Secretary". 6 March 2014.
  4. ^ Lansford, Tom (19 March 2019). Political Handbook of the World 2018-2019. ISBN 9781544327136.
  5. ^ East, Roger; Thomas, Richard J. (2014). Profiles of People in Power: The World's Government Leaders. Routledge. p. 526. ISBN 9781317639404. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Trinidad and Tobago (11/03)".
  7. ^ "The legacy of Indian migration to European colonies". The Economist. 2 September 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  8. ^ Abraham, Sara (2007). Labour and the Multiracial Project in the Caribbean: Its History and Its Promise. ISBN 9780739116869.
  9. ^ Seuraj, Indarjit, Jail can’t cope with serious illness...Panday granted bail Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Trinidad Guardian, 29 April 2006.
  10. ^ Panday stuns crowd, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, 3 May 2006
  11. ^ Alexander, Gail, UNC execs want Panday to stay Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Trinidad Guardian, 3 May 2006.
  12. ^ See for more information 2007 Trinidad and Tobago general election.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]