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4-way race for COP leader

By JULIEN NEAVES Friday, June 6 2014

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Out to win: Lincoln Douglas, third from right, with his supporters announces his candidacy for political leader of the COP at Flagship House, Port-of-...
Out to win: Lincoln Douglas, third from right, with his supporters announces his candidacy for political leader of the COP at Flagship House, Port-of-...

TODAY is nomination day for the Congress of the People (COP) internal election for the post of political leader and it will be at least a four-way race with incumbent Prakash Ramadhar, party Chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Deputy Political Leader Dr Lincoln Douglas and chairman of the COP Arouca/Maloney constituency, Rufus Foster, all scheduled to file nomination papers.

Yesterday Seepersad-Bachan, who had been endorsed for the post by founding political leader Winston Dookeran in a statement this week, confirmed her candidacy via media release.

“I have prayed and sought guidance on this very important life decision. It is with great humility that I now announce my decision to contest the position of political leader of the (COP),” she stated.

Seepersad-Bachan, who is also Minister of Public Administration, reported that over the past few days she had been discussing with her family, close friends and party members about her potential candidacy and she is “thankful and encouraged by the overwhelming support I have been receiving”.

She is scheduled to file nomination papers today at 12.30 pm with the COP Elections Commission at COP Operations Centre, Caroni Savannah Road, Charlieville.

She will be joined by Douglas, also Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, who held a media conference yesterday at COP Flagship House, Woodbrook to announce his candidacy.

He reported that “numerous of all stratas of society who have been asking me to take up this leadership and (also people) throughout our party”.

Douglas said he is committed to building a strong party and to mobilise and unify its various arms including young and older people, men and women, and those from the rural areas and the East West Corridor.

Questioned whether he believed Ramadhar is a strong leader he responded, “I believe Mr Ramadhar ...has led our party with the best of intentions, with the best of ability. I think he did a good job at a difficult time when we were joining a coalition and dealing with some of the issues of the past and so far I think he has brought the party to the place where it is today and so I think the party needs to move into a new phase.”

When he informed the political leader of his decision to contest the post he recalled that Ramadhar was disappointed.

“We are good friends. I have been and I am his loyal deputy political leader still. So I expected him to be disappointed and to be concerned,” he added.

On whether the COP was weak in the coalition, Douglas noted they are the lesser party in the coalition particularly in terms of numbers but the party has brought a lot of strength to the coalition and has been holding a strong line.

“For a coalition itself to be strong the individual members...must be stronger and I think definitely we need to be stronger and to take a stronger stance in articulating, presenting and promoting the positions of the (COP),” he said.

Questioned whether as political leader he would ever consider leaving the coalition he said “all things can be considered but at present this is the vehicle that we have, this is what we rode into town on and probably what we will have to ride out on”.

On his chances of winning, Douglas said “of course I will win. I never lost a fight and I never failed a test.” On whether he has aspirations of becoming Prime Minister Douglas noted he is a politician by profession and “if the opportunity arises to be the Prime Minister I don’t have any problems with that”.

On Dookeran’s endorsement of Seepersad-Bachan Douglas said, “I am happy Mr Dookeran has finally decided to get involved in the party and I am looking forward to his ongoing participation, whoever wins.” On Dookeran’s intention to seek the post of chairman Douglas said he “would be a tremendous asset to this party. We’ve been wanting his wisdom and his knowledge for a long time in a more precise way and definite way.”

Foster, speaking with Newsday yesterday, said the party has become weak under Ramadhar and some people wonder if it has any relevance in the country’s politics.

“Because of that I would like to offer myself as political leader to see if I can roll back the glory days when you once could have said as a party that any Government to be formed in Trinidad and Tobago would need the COP’s...assistance. I don’t think they can truly say that any more,” he said.

Foster was part of a group of COP members, including Ramadhar’s brother Kishore, that had unsuccessfully filed a motion for Ramadhar to be removed as political leader.

On his chances of winning Foster said any candidate going up against Ramadhar had a chance because he lacked the support of the grassroots membership.

“They saying the COP more dead than alive because of him,” he added.

Attempts to contact Ramadhar yesterday via telephone were unsuccessful.

COP member and Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, speaking with the media following the post Cabinet media conference, said he will make public his support for a candidate in the COP elections once he sees who all the candidates are. Tewarie, however, said he could not understand Dookeran’s endorsement of Seepersad-Bachan and questioned if she loses the elections for political leader if he (Dookeran) will still run for the chairmanship of the party.

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