Acting post is no carrot
By ANDRE BAGOO Wednesday, September 25 2013
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BURDEN OF OFFICE: COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar, who yesterday assumed the mantle of acting prime minister, addressed reporters at a tour of t...
CONGRESS of the People (COP) political leader Prakash Ramadhar yesterday said his appointment as acting Prime Minister was not a carrot meant to placate his political party, as he took up the reins of the acting post.
In an interview with Newsday, Ramadhar was asked if he felt the appointment made by Prime Minister and UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar at this time when UNC/COP local government negotiations are ongoing was meant to be a carrot to the COP in the middle of the negotiations. He responded, “No actually, this is part and parcel of the process where the partners have shared the premiership from time to time.”
The COP political leader outlined the range of posts and responsibilities he holds as acting Prime Minister in the absence of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is in New York until Thursday to attend United Nations events.
Ramadhar said as acting Prime Minister he holds responsibility of every function of the post. He chuckled and added, “except changes of the Cabinet.”
The St Augustine MP revealed that in the past he had lobbied for COP founder, Winston Dookeran – one of the most senior figures in the Cabinet – to be appointed to the post.
“In fact, I have asked in the past for Mr Dookeran to be appointed,” Ramadhar said.
Ramadhar previously served as acting Prime Minister for a few hours on December 2. However, he now has almost a week in the post and yesterday took up the reins with a series of public events.
In his capacity of acting Prime Minister Ramadhar yesterday morning attended Arima COP MP Rodger Samuel’s Green Mountain Marathon; paid a visit to the Emperor Valley Zoo, Port-of-Spain. He was also due to open a park at Marabella and attend the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
Ramadhar’s family – including his daughter Urvi, seven and wife Jayanti – accompanied him on his visit to the zoo. Speaking with reporters, Ramadhar revealed the UNC/COP held yet another meeting on Monday night and another meeting is scheduled.
He said there is a “sticking point” in the talks but declined to say what that was. He said that commensurate with his acting appointment, he has opted to remove himself from the negotiations and another COP official is performing the functions of the political leader in those talks. “From the reports I have had, I think that it is a matter that could be resolved once fairness is respected,” he said. Asked to say what the sticking point was, he said, “I would rather not say. Let me just indicate that as I have assumed the acting prime minister-ship, my party asked Anil Mahabir to assume the leadership so that I will not be involved in the negotiations.”
Asked if the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation was the sticking point, Ramadhar said, “While negotiations are in progress I will have no comment on that.” The Acting Prime Minister added, “The reason why we are here today is to establish more and more in the minds of our citizens the need to protect the environment.”
Ramadhar, however, said he would be happy to represent the COP in planned Local Government Election debates. (See Page 13A) Of the People’s Partnership (PP) coalition’s prospects in the election, Ramadhar said, “I wish we were in a far better place but we have to take the reality of what has happened in the recent past. Some of the goodwill that was there at the start has left, but it has not left us altogether. He said while the coalition parties may often disagree on matters, this was simply par for the course. “This is the age of coalition governments and it is the future of this country,” Ramadhar said.