COP TO PROTECT PP
By Richardson Dhalai Monday, April 2 2012
On the eve of today’s second meeting with fellow leaders, Congress of the People (COP), political leader Prakash Ramadhar appeared to back-track on his warning that the People’s Partnership faced collapse, saying the party’s position was to strengthen and ensure the survivability of the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led administration.
“The COP is very clear, I am very clear as to what our position is. We are here to protect the Government, the People’s Partnership, in the long term,” Ramadhar declared yesterday, in a softened position to his ultimatum given last Tuesday after accusing the United National Congress of hijack after San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray left the COP, joined the UNC and was elected a UNC deputy political leader on March 24.
On March 27, Ramadhar told reporters the COP would reconsider its role in the coalition government if Coudray did not resign as San Fernando Mayor and allow a new COP nominee to be appointed to head the San Fernando City Council.
“The issue, therefore, is really the attempt to take the mayorship of San Fernando and abandon the People’s Partnership by trampling on the Fyzabad Declaration. If this is not addressed, it could well mean the destruction of the People’s Partnership and the dashing of the hopes of the nation,” Ramadhar had stated at a media conference at the COP’s Operations Centre, Charlieville.
“The COP will not be pushed aside and allow this hijack to take place,” Ramadhar had stressed, saying the issue would have been urgently addressed at a meeting of the five People’s Partnership leaders which took place last Thursday. The leaders are: UNC, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prakash Ramadhar, Tobago Organisation of the People Movement’s (TOP) Ashworth Jack, Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah and National Joint Action Committee’s Makandal Daaga.
“If it is not addressed adequately we will be discussing nothing further as the very terms of our coming together have been thrown out of the window,” he said, adding should the issue not be resolved, “the party would have to reconsider its relationship with the other partners.”
Last Thursday’s meeting at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s ended with a commitment among the leaders to resume talks today.
However, ahead of today’s meetings, Ramadhar convened an emergency meeting of constituency executives, parliamentarians and councillors at the COP Operations Centre yesterday. Whereas, he had been openly vocal about the COP’s demands, Ramadhar appeared more circumspect saying he was not prepared to disclose the details of his meeting, citing confidentiality.
However, asked whether his party, which has six seats, was prepared to leave the People’s Partnership over the Coudray issue, Ramadhar said, “I have never made a statement that the COP will walk,” he said.
“The COP is not about jeopardising the will of the people, in fact, we are about strengthening it, about protecting the Partnership for the long term survivability of the People’s Partnership,” he said.
Ramadhar when pressed on whether the COP would contest the local government elections, which are due in 2013, on its own, replied, “You know, I’m a forward looking person, but to share that with you now without having consultation with the rank and file of my party would be to abdicate my responsibility as leader of this party.” Asked whether the COP would contest any election on its own, Ramadhar said, “In life there are many, many options, but let me say there are options which are easy and options which are hard.”
“We always believe in the spirit of Partnership, in the spirit of cooperation and coalition, we must work together, to solve our problems and that is why I have called for the meeting, since December, of leaders to put in structures that would prevent things like this which have occurred,” he added. “It must survive based on a principle, on an agreement, we are not here to break that, we are here to protect it. Others may wish it to be otherwise, we are there to protect the agreement on which the Partnership itself survives.”
Ramadhar again declined to reveal what had transpired at the closed-door meeting of the COP’s executive council saying this was a “matter of honour and confidentiality.”
He emphasised that the People’s Partnership had come into being “in the sight of the population” and must strive for “transparency in the conduct of our business”.
“It is all about the people’s business and the survivability of our Government is critically important. We need to set the examples of transparency and at the same time, honouring confidentiality in private meetings,” he said.
Ramadhar said he had the unanimous support from his executive members, parliamentarians and councillors saying the party’s position had been made “clear from day one”.
“It is nothing other than the restoration of a trust that the people gave to all of us in the People’s Partnership. The size of the office doesn’t matter, it is the principle that we stand on, the basis of that agreement has to be maintained, because in a relationship if you can’t keep to an agreement, it jeopardises the relationship,” he added.
Asked about the presence of MSJ political leader, David Abdulah, who had held discussions with him prior to the COP meeting, Ramadhar said, “Let me keep matters that have not been made public private.”
Asked whether he was disappointed with the absence of Sports Minister, Anil Roberts, who disagrees with Ramadhar’s outcry over Coudray, Ramadhar said, “I always believe that when decisions are being made and if you have a point of view that you wish to share that’s the time you should share it, and not go making statements which are ill-informed.”
“But sometimes arguments, and very vociferous ones, are launched on a false premise, and you know where that ends up with, complete confusion and unhealthiness,” he added.
Roberts did not attend yesterday’s meeting. Also absent was Finance Minister Winston Dookeran, however Lopinot/Bon Air MP Dr Lincoln Douglas, a Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development, San Fernando West MP Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, who is also Public Administration Minister, and Planning and Economy Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, a Government Senator, were present. It is not known if Arima MP and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Rodger Samuel arrived for the meeting.
Seepersad-Bachan, without giving details, said she was “very happy” with yesterday’s meeting.
Asked whether she was prepared to resign as a Government Minister if the San Fernando mayorship was not resolved, she said, “Let us not prejudge the situation. Let us not preempt, we do not want to prejudice anything.”
“Again too, I will wait on the leadership of the party, the party is very much behind the leader of the COP and the COP is very much alive,” she said.
COP vice chairman Vernon DeLima said the meeting had proceeded “very well”.
“It was all in order, you know, we in the Congress of the People do our business with order so I was very pleased about it, it went very nice,” he said.
After yesterday’s meeting, Ramadhar took part in an Easter parade in Tunapuna and later attended a Spiritual Shouter Baptist celebration at St Augustine Secondary School.