Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Winston Dookeran’s options

I am writing this article before the news of what Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar had to say at his media conference hit the newswires. But, since he does not have a wide range of options it is entirely possible to proceed without knowing what he actually said.

If he decides to run he will be opposed by Winston Dookeran and he will lose. If he says he will not run and throw his support behind Mr Dookeran then Mr Dookeran will return to the position of political leader by acclamation. In either case the interesting issue is what would the return of Mr Dookeran to the helm of the party portend?

There seems to be no question that Mr Dookeran feels he should retake the reins of the party. As far back as March this year, in a speech he gave in Tunapuna, he had indicated that he “was prepared to continue in my search and in my advocacy for getting the politics right”.

And more recently Mr Dookeran has admitted that he has met with “disgruntled” members who have urged him to take back the party. But how would his return, with or without the support of Mr Ramadhar, affect the fortunes of the party?

In this context it is interesting to note that it was the COP’s own Patrick Watson who, a couple of months ago at the same forum at which Mr Dookeran declared his interest, stated that the party had lost the allegiance of the “third constituency” and there was no chance in hell that that constituency would support the COP, whether it presented itself as part of the People’s Partnership or on its own, in the general elections of 2015.

So, if Mr Watson is right, and I am quite certain that he is, the question does arise as to why and with what strategy in mind is Mr Dookeran venturing back into the forefront of the political fray?

Mr Dookeran may be content to leave the COP as it is and within the fold of the People’s Partnership. He may consider that while the party no longer has the resources either of crowd or moral authority to bring to the bargaining table, the UNC may be so desperate for the fig leaf of a partnership arrangement that they would be willing to cede to the COP more seats to contest and a different structure of arrangements for decision-making.

Even if such a calculation has some validity, it is difficult to comprehend what Mr Dookeran could say to his party, and to the population as a whole, which would convince them that it would be different a second time around and be sufficient to win their vote again.

The second option for Mr Dookeran in taking back the reins of the COP would be to take the party out of the Partnership. This would have two immediate effects. In the first place it would result in the dissolution of the Government and the triggering of fresh elections.

But it would also mean that the current crop of COP ministers would immediately have to give up their status and privileges. If any of them had the courage to do that they would have done so long before now. So one has to ask just what makes Mr Dookeran believe that any of them would be prepared to go with him into the wilderness.

It may be that Mr Dookeran is counting on exactly that reluctance on the part of the COP ministers to give up the spoils of office months before they have to. For that gives him the opportunity to denounce them as traitors to the “new politics” and to start an entirely new party dedicated to the search for “getting the politics right”.

Such a move on his part would certainly galvanise a large segment of the COP’s former support around him but what then? Does Mr Dookeran have what it takes to galvanise the “third force” yet again particularly, this time in direct opposition to both the UNC and the PNM? Even if he does, is that not a prescription for 2007 all over again?

The fact is the prognosis for all of this is not good. Mr Dookeran unquestionably still has a reputation as an honest man who can be trusted. But he has spent his entire political life “trying to walk through the rain without getting wet”.

Such a strategy has meant that he has stood for nothing and has ducked and run from every moment of truth.

The country is fast approaching the most profound moment of truth it has ever encountered and every citizen is going to be required to take a side. In such a moment only leadership of uncompromising principle and crystal clear vision will prevail. Unfortunately nothing in Mr Dookeran’s history suggests that he is qualified for that role.