A controversy is brewing over plans to replace long time NDP MLA Sue
Hammell in Surrey Green Timbers. South Asian supporters of NDP in
Surrey have sent a message to party leader, John Horgan, to delay the nomination
meeting slated for January 29 to allow a “fair and equitable process” in selection
of a candidate to replace Hammell. The message was sent through former party
leader, Adrian Dix. Those who met Dix on Thursday to send their message to
Horgan included senior leaders from local gurdwaras and temples as well as
community organizations. In their message to Horgan, they said
they are upset because they feel every party supporter and member was not given fair
opportunity to seek nomination. Currently, there is reportedly one
person seeking nomination to replace Hammell, and that is Rachna Singh, an
employee of CUPE and wife of local South Asian radio personality, Gurpreet
Singh. BC NDP’s Surrey Green Timbers riding association sent out a notice to
its members announcing January 29, 2017, as the nomination date with the
deadline for prospective candidates to file their nomination papers with the
party by December 30, 2016. This notice was only sent to current members of the
NDP Surrey Green Timbers and Rachna lives in Delta and is not believed to have
been a current member of the Surrey Green Timbers NDP and should not have
received this notice.
However, according to party sources, she filed her nomination papers with the party before the deadline of December 30. Hammell announced her intent to retire
to on January 3 and the news was published on January 4. Hammell said in an interview
yesterday that the party is following a process in selecting a candidate. She said she always encouraged women to seek political office. When asked if she had “tipped off “ Rachna about her plans to retire before the December 30 deadline for filing nominations, Hammell responded “I don’t recall.” When asked if Rachna, who lives in North
Delta, was signing members in Surrey Green Timbers in October, November and December, she said “we are signing members all the time.”
The Asian Star managed to get a hold of Rachna Singh just before press time. She
confirmed she was seeking nomination for Surrey Green Timers, that she was living in
North Delta and was not a member of Surrey Green Timers NDP.
When asked when she filed her nomination papers and when she became aware that Sue
Hammell was retiring., she said Sue Hammell started talking to her in mid December about her plans to retire. She said therefore she sent a letter of inquiry or intent to NDP before Christmas (December 25) to say she would be interested in seeking nomination if Sue Hammell indeed retired. Rachna said Hammell’s announcement
came on January 4 and she submitted her nomination papers to the party on January 5.
When reminded that her January 5 filing would have missed the strict deadline of December 30, Rachna said: “But I sent my letter of intent before Christmas.” She said she could not submit her nomination papers prior to Sue’s announcement on January 3 or 4 because Sue had not officially retired. When reminded that a “letter of
intent or inquiry” is not actually filing of nomination papers, Rachna
referred The Asian Star to the party headquarters for comments.
Rachna confirmed she was signing up members in October,
November and December in Green Timbers and other ridings but was
not doing so with the intent of nseeking nomination. She said she
was signing members for NDP as she usually does.
A message was left for BC NDP Director, Raj Sahota, but she did not
return the call by press time. In the meantime, a lot of
heavyweight South Asian NDP supporters are very upset and angry
because they feel that the party or someone influential within the
party gave Rachna an advantage. This controversy is also worrying
other party candidates and MLAs in Surrey who feel that the groundswell
of anger at what happened in Green Timers will lead to members and supporters abandoning them as well. “We are not against Rachna.
No one is. But we also want there to be fair process to select a candidate,”
one long time party member said.