Sunday, December 17, 2017

‘2,443 of 40,000’ voters came out


Voted yesterday: Winston Dookeran

Mark Fraser

Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said her biggest concern was the low voter turnout in yesterday’s Congress of the People (COP) internal election.

She said, “My biggest concern is that out of 40,000 members in this party, only 2,443 came out to vote in yesterday’s internal party election.” This means only 6.1 per cent participated in the election, in which Prakash Ramadhar retained the post of political leader.

“It is really a bit disconcerting. Mr Ramadhar has his work cut out for him. That is assured because it is clear that the disenchantment with the COP and the disillusionment is there. It is a rea­lity,” she said.

Ramadhar received 58.6 per cent of the vote, Seepersad Bachan 41.2 per cent and Lincoln Douglas 4.2 per cent.

Seepersad-Bachan said all candidates deserved to be commended for having the courage, commitment and strength to run this race to the finish.

She congratulated Ramadhar on his victory and unsuccessful candidate Douglas on his participation. She said she remained committed to the principles of the Congress of the People and would do whatever was necessary to ensure the people of the country are part of a politics that speaks to accountability, transparency, fairness and, most importantly, democracy.

Seepersad-Bachan thanked members of her family, her friends, members of her campaign team and all those who supported her.

“We fought the good fight. We kept our campaign clean and consistent with the principles of our party,” she said.

She thanked all those who believed in her.

“For me this is not the end. In fact, it is the beginning.” Seepersad-Bachan said she believed she did very well.

“When I came into the fight, it was a short campaign, I was at a severe disadvantage, the odds were against us, the stakes were so high. There were so many stakeholders involved in this process that it was amazing.

“I am not unhappy about losing. I am quite happy for whomever wins. The membership has spoken,” she added.

However, she just felt the campaign should have been conducted in accordance with the principles of the party, rather than on character assassination.

She said within the last four days, “the ground started turning against me”.

“In the last couple days, I kept expressing my concern about the amount of propaganda there was on the ground.”

She said she was disappointed in many of the text messages that went out from another camp.

She said there were pictures posted of herself and Independent Liberal Party leader Jack Warner, with the caption “Done deal”, and references to herself and former FIFA official Mohamed bin Hammam.

“I did not realise that Mr Ronald Bhola, who is a famous blogger, was part of the COP family at all. He was part of the Ramad­har team and was present at the debate. Mr Phillip Alexander I see here (at Gaston Court in Chaguanas) tonight.

“I am really surprised at the kinds of things they have put out about me and I am deeply disappointed at some of the things that were said, and it is exactly what I had asked not to happen in this campaign,” she said.

Seepersad-Bachan added she never went down that road.

“I was also disappointed that Mr Gerry Hadeed (COP member and Minister of Tourism) came out on the radio station (91.1) yesterday morning, criticising me and telling people not to vote for me, that I am arrogant and all of that.

“I didn’t know that this is the way we behave at all in the public. It was very, very bad. I didn’t expect that from a Cabinet colleague at all. (It was as if it was) total war.”

Asked whether she was still chairman of the party, she said: “Yes, but that is something that would have to be discussed, because Mr Ramadhar did indicate in the campaign that he wanted a new executive in place.”

On whether she would function as chairman until that is achieved, she said: “I don’t know. I would reserve comment on that until we have farther discussions.”

On the voting process, Seepersad-Bachan said her team raised the issue of a supplemental list which appeared only yesterday in polli­ng stations. “At least if a supplementary list was going to be used, we should have been aware of it,” she said.

She will await word from the Election Commission on this matter.

Earlier in the day, she had stated her team was questioning the integrity of that part of the process.

COP founder Winston Dookeran, who endorsed Seepersad-Bachan for leader, voted and then left the country for Panama on Government business.

Before leaving, Dookeran had told repor­ters: “The decision of the people would guide my own future.”

Earlier in the day, Ramadhar said he would continue to have a professional relationship with his challengers. However, he expressed some disappointment with Dookeran, saying everything he had learned from him was “about the removal of gate keeping from the politics and, unfortunately, I believed him”.

Douglas said he would not fade into obli­vion as previous unsuccessful candidates have done, like Vernon De Lima, Nalini Dial and others.