Crucial meeting with T&T PM on future of the Partnership takes place today

(Trinidad Express) It could be make or break when the leaders of the People’s Partnership meet today to thrash out their issues.

Leaders of the People’s Partnership Government comprise Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, political leader of the United National Congress (UNC); Prakash Ramadhar, political leader of the Congress of the People (COP); Makandal Daaga, head of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC); Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah; and Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader Ashworth Jack.

Discontent among the partners has become obvious over the last few weeks, with the MSJ giving the Partnership an ultimatum that if its concerns, such as disrespect for the industrial relations climate, are not addressed by May 24, the party would reconsider its position in the Partnership.

The latest expression of outrage has come from the COP over the “poaching” of San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray, who successfully contested the post of deputy political leader of the UNC in last Saturday’s internal party elections.

Ramadhar said the UNC has, in effect, taken the mayorship from the COP and it should be returned.

Ramadhar is threatening to walk away from the coalition if the San Fernando mayorship is not immediately addressed.

Ramadhar has accused the UNC of violating the two-year-old “gentleman’s agreement” which was an informal, verbal addition to the Fyzabad Declaration.

Vernon de Lima, the party’s vice-chairman, said yesterday a handshake should be respected and honoured among the coalition partners. He said it was not about Coudray jumping ship, but highlighted a bigger problem of mistrust within the party.

“I do not put too much value on this business surrounding Coudray, but it is the principle of the matter. We are a partnership. This is just bad behaviour and a lack of class,” de Lima said in a telephone interview.

“It is a breach of trust. An agreement is just a piece of paper, but all the parties should have been guided by the tenets of that agreement,” he said.

De Lima said the issue was, however, not big enough to destroy the Partnership. “I am hoping the Prime Minister brings the parties together, but if not I cannot go on with unprincipled people. It is not a trivial thing,” he said.

De Lima said if this were allowed to happen, it meant the UNC could disregard the arrangements in bigger issues as well.

Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, one of COP’s founding members, yesterday said she did not agree with a statement by UNC deputy political leader Dr Roodal Moonilal that Coudray was not elected on a sole COP nomination.

“We had an agreement on seat allocations, where each party—COP, UNC, MSJ—would have an alderman, and the UNC ended up with two since MSJ did not get one,” she explained.

“Does that mean that we, the COP, did not have a seat there? Did the UNC have all three?” she said.

On Monday, Coudray said she was not bound by the Fyzabad Declaration. Seepersad-Bachan dismissed this. “Is she above the leaders of all the parties, then?” she asked.

“The Declaration is supposed to be a guide for the behaviour of the party. It’s almost as if people are forgetting that it is a partnership, it is a coalition,” she said.

“I am alarmed that lately the Fyzabad Declaration does not matter anymore. It was not meant to be a legal document, but was supposed to embody the spirit and intent of the partnership,” she said.

Political leader of the MSJ David Abdulah yesterday said he would save his comments for today’s meeting. He maintained he supported the COP with its call for the respect for the “gentleman’s agreement”.

The meeting of the coalition heads with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is expected to take place after midday today at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.


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