Candidates for the political leadership of the Congress of the People (COP), Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and Lincoln Douglas remain firmly of the view that Anil Roberts ought to step down as a minister.
Both candidates also indicated that the Prime Minister’s decision to leave Anil Roberts in the Cabinet suggested a lack of respect for the COP as a partner within the coalition.
“The cry out there among our membership is that his (Roberts) behaviour at all times, not just today but in the past as well, is not representatives of the Congress of the People,” she said.
Their positions, which were articulated during the lunch break at yesterday’s sitting of Parliament, are in stark contrast to COP Political Leader Prakash Ramadhar who said over the weekend that he supported the Prime Minister’s decision, since it was the only one she could have made in the situation.
“It is easy to put all sorts of improper motives to things. But when one stands back, and that is the function of a leader (to stand back), not to be running out and making comments without thinking things through. You (as a leader) must have a little forbearance and restraint in things you do and say as a leader. Looking now at the Prime Minister’s position- I am not here to defend her- I am legally trained so forgive me if I am caught in the legality of things, but that is how our system operates. The presumption of innocence is a constitutionally enshrined right to all of us and beyond that, issue of natural justice. Therefore looking at what facts were put to her (the PM), what statements were made to her, she had to act the way she did, had to, whether she wanted to or not,” Ramadhar said.
Seepersad-Bachan said she begged to disagree with her leader. “This is not a legal issue. It is not an issue where we are trying to convict someone in a court of law. This is a moral issue...There are certain standards of behaviour expected of our members who are in public life,” she said. She added that when the party starts to dilute its value system, it runs into trouble. “Therein lies why we have so much disenchantment in this party. People feel we are not holding firm to our value system,” she said, adding that there was nothing wrong with the COP holding to its position. “That is all part of a coalition government. But we must have respect amongst the partners and especially since this is a member who is elected on a COP ticket,” she said. She noted that the party adopted the same position with Chandresh Sharma.
Seepersad-Bachan said the whole issue showed what happened when there were no rules of engagement between the partners. “When you are to have engagement between the partners in a coalition type arrangements...there must be respect between partners. One partner has ruled based on the value system they have and on their political philosophy...We didn’t arrive at this decision in any ad hoc way. We arrived at that after careful analysis and looking at compliance with the party’s code of ethics. And as a result of that one would have imagined that the political leaders would have met and discussed this issue.
Lincoln Douglas said Prakash Ramadhar would have to live with the implications of his decision. He is standing firm that the Prime Minister’s decision to allow Anil Roberts to remain in the Cabinet was a disrespect of the COP’s leadership and the party. “The fact that he (Ramadhar) does not know that (it was a disrespect) and not responding accordingly is more of a problem for the party and probably might have been one of the reasons that we are where we are,” Douglas said.