Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has dropped the strongest possible hint since the February 19 poll that he will not be contesting another general election on the island and will give up the job of Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Thomas lost his seat, and Congress, which formed the government in July 2008, was routed from office in a 15 – 0 general election defeat five months ago by the New National Party led by Dr Keith Mitchell.
The former Prime Minister has been forced to clear the air on reports circulating last Friday that he had stepped down as NDC leader or was planning to do so.
Thomas said he told an interviewer that “I will not be contesting another general election, and people take it to mean that I will not be contesting the party leadership. I think people have misunderstood”.
Shortly after the results of the February 19 polls, Thomas said he was prepared to step down as NDC head and work with any chosen new leader of the party.
“The leadership is not something that I want to hold on to,” he said in an interview with the Trinidad Guardian.
“Once somebody comes forward, I am prepared to let that person take over the responsibility of leadership of the party.”
According to Thomas, he now awaits the NDC’s annual convention, when election to the party’s executive will be held.
“I will remain as political leader of the party until we have the convention in which all executive positions will be contested. If the people think I need to be on and lead the executive, I will comply to their wishes,” Thomas said.
“It’s at that convention the delegates will have the opportunity to make any changes, and people will have to respect the wishes of the delegates, whether or not they decide to make me continue or change the leadership.”
Former Finance Minister, Nazim Burke and ex-Education Minister, Franka Bernadine are considered as the front-runners to replace Thomas in any leadership change in Congress.
The defeated Youth and Sports Minister, Patrick Simmons is seen as a possible dark horse in the race.
Thomas, 68, said he has no immediate plans to contest another general election. However, he has not altogether ruled out that the possibility of running at the next national elections that are constitutionally due by 2018.
“I may not contest a general election again, but that in itself is not cast in concrete and circumstances can change,” he said.
The National Executive of the party was due to meet Thursday at which a date was expected to be set for the first General Council of Congress since the lost at the polls.
Under the party’s constitution, the date for the annual convention is set by delegates at the General Council sitting.