COP’s leadership conundrum
I have often said to Winston Dookeran that what people saw as his honesty and integrity were the attributes which brought them together to form the Congress of the People (COP); but after COP carved its spectacular image on T&T’s politics, Mr Dookeran proved unequal to the challenge of advocating and maintaining the New Politics’ policies and principles which, though undefined, many of us understood to mean the rejection of nepotism, corruption, racism and poor governance which have characterised both the PNM and the UNC administrations.
I accept that coalitions are inevitable henceforth—but each coalition partner must draw the line under its expectations. In the Partnership negotiations I believe that Mr Dookeran underestimated his leverage as COP leader; he was cowed by the UNC rhetoric that the COP needed the UNC to survive, and was content to accept UNC crumbs—rather than “walk with his jahajee bundle”; his earliest utterances emphasised “preserving the Partnership”—with little reference to any COP conditions. I understand that the UNC cabal talked with Mr Dookeran and not with a COP team —that the nomination of a COP supporter to a state entity came directly from the UNC and not via Mr Dookeran, while Mr Dookeran’s nominations of COP talent were mostly ignored in favour of UNC nominations, whether qualified or competent, or even with fraudulent certificates.
I agree with Michael Harris’ treatise on the demise of COP—COP “lost the third constituency because that constituency has recognised that when offered a choice between office and integrity, for all their talk of getting the politics right, they settled for the mess of pottage and sold their integrity”.
Mr Dookeran has run his race—and he relinquished the leadership —and it would be a mistake for him or anyone to believe that his return to the helm could resuscitate the COP. The COP constituency comprises the many citizens who belong to neither party, but who yearn for good government for T&T. This constituency has been sadly disappointed by the Partnership’s performance with COP’s allegiance, and the COP-ers who are seen today as “eat ah food” people, cannot after four years divorce themselves from the corruption, nepotism and gross mismanagement which made headlines every week. They smothered COP’s separate identity to give the UNC unconditional support “to preserve the Partnership”. No COP-er has any prospect of winning any election—except perhaps as a UNC candidate.
Michael J Williams