COP an ‘appendage’ to PP say senior members
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, October 13 2013
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Despite its best efforts, the Congress of the People (COP) remains “an appendage” within the UNC-led People’s Partnership coalition government.
This is the view of senior COP members, who, speaking on the condition of strict anonymity, lamented party’s failure to participate in the Trinidad and Tobago Debate Commission’s (TTDC’s) National Local Government Debate as a separate entity.
The COP is being represented by the UNC, the major party in the Government. The other participating political parties — the People’s National Movement (PNM), Independent Liberal Party (ILP) and the Movement For Social Justice (MSJ) — are each debating on their own behalf.
The first debate, which was held last Thursday, featured senior party representatives while the other, scheduled for Tuesday, is expected to feature political leaders.
Saying that the COP remains voiceless in the Government, one senior party member told Sunday Newsday: “The COP’s position is disgraceful. They have capitulated at every juncture, on every imaginable point so that people have lost respect for the party.”
Early last week, top party officials fought to have the party enter the debate as an individual entity but the TTDC, which organised the event, subsequently issued a statement which said the COP would be represented as a member of the PP as opposed to a single party.
The decision, the TTDC had said in the statement, was based on the commission’s criteria for participation — that if two or more parties had joined in an arrangement to contest the elections, they would be represented by a single leader and only the leader would be eligible to participate. The party member said COP Chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and Deputy Chairman Nicole Dyer-Griffith should haven been more forceful in their negotiations given the fact that the party is the second major entity in the coalition. He said, too, the scenario also reflected the fact that people had no respect for the COP.
“If the party had stood up for itself, three and half years ago, the government would have been a strong one, pleasing to the people,” the member said.
The official also took the hard line with COP founder and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran.
“Where is Dookeran?” he asked.
“He does not come to meetings and he has nothing to say. It is almost as if he has gone into a slumber.”
Dookeran, though, who launched the COP in September 2006 on a mantra of new politics and a bottoms-up approach to governance, made his first public statement on the party in weeks, telling reporters on Wednesday that the COP should have been given the opportunity to participate in the debate on its own merit. Another former COP official, who also complained that the party was being sidelined in the debate, blamed the TTDC for the development.
“The Chamber is playing real political games just as they had done in the Tobago House of Assembly elections and I am disappointed,” he said.
He felt, too, that the COP, whose vision for the country “is very much alive,” was crying out for strong leadership.
“There has not been an astute political champion to really have an impact on the politics. We are still being seen as a kind of do-goodey group but I would rather have that reputation than one which is associated with corruption,” he said.
Aware that the COP had lost considerable ground among the 148,000 citizens who had voted for the party in 2007, the official said the party needed to refocus.
He said after the re-evaluation exercise, the party will then have to determine a course of action for the party.
He said: “The principles that the COP espouses for the betterment of the country are second to none. Everybody knows what the PNM and UNC stand for. Nobody knows what the ILP stands for. But there are policy statements that COP has put in the public domain which demonstrates what we stand for.”