Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan

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CAROLYN IN HOT WATER

More fallout from statements on why TOP lost THA election

By Renuka Singh renuka.singh@trinidadexpress.com

Congress of the People (COP) chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan is in hot water once again with the People's Partnership hierarchy.

This development comes following her comments this week that the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) lost the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election because the party lacked independence within the coalition.

The TOP lost its four seats on the THA while the People's National Movement (PNM) ran away with all 12 seats.

The Express learned that the COP convened a special national executive meeting last night to discuss Seepersad-Bachan's public comments on that issue.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Seepersad-Bachan confirmed the meeting last night but refused to comment when asked if she was facing disciplinary action for speaking out of sync with the Partnership's sentiment.

"I have no comment on that," she said.

On Tuesday after a parliamentary session, Seepersad-Bachan told reporters the TOP may have suffered defeat in the THA election because it "did not maintain its individual identity".

She said then there was a need for the parties in the People's Partnership to maintain their individual characters, and that the COP had "always sought to do" that.

That interview was published in the Express on Thursday, on the same day United National Congress (UNC) chairman and National Security Minister Jack Warner was quoted as saying the loss was a result of Tobagonians voting on the basis of "tribal instincts" and fear that a Calcutta ship was coming.

A source close to the COP yesterday said the public differences in opinion have once again brought Seepersad-Bachan before the party's senior executive. The source also revealed this was not the first time Seepersad-Bachan has fallen out of favour with the coalition's heavy hitters.

"She was told this was the third time they had to speak with her," the source said.

The first time Seepersad-Bachan crossed the coalition's line was when she took an independent stand on the Section 34 issue. During the height of the fiasco last September, she was then quoted as saying the COP was founded on the three pillars of accountability, transparency and integrity and that those pillars were being threatened by the silence from the Government on the Section 34 issue.

She had said then the COP's concern over the Section 34 issue was evident when several of its members chose to attend an Opposition-led march against the early proclamation of the section.

She again drew the coalition's attention in November when she visited environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh during his three-week hunger protest against the Government-sanctioned section of the Debe to Mon Desir section of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin.

She was the only Government member to be welcomed by Kublalsingh who had just days before chased away Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan.

She had said then she hoped the meeting would be a "catalyst for dialogue to be restarted between the Government and Dr Kublalsingh".

She was also quoted then as telling Kublalsingh she was in "support" of his strong convictions.

Both her visit and a letter to the Prime Minister on the issue from former COP leader, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Winston Dookeran, drew Warner's ire who had then accused the Kublalsingh family of being financial supporters of the COP.

But this third time, the source said, Seepersad-Bachan has already been reprimanded by the coalition senior executives for her statements on the TOP losing its identity and they are calling on the COP's political leader, Prakash Ramadhar, to rein her in.

Ramadhar yesterday confirmed the special meeting last night but denied Seepersad-Bachan was going to be reprimanded for talking out of turn.

"This is about assessing the THA elections, an analysis to see how we learn from it and how we move forward," Ramadhar said in a telephone interview.

When asked about Seepersad-Bachan's comments about TOP's lack of independence contributing to its THA loss, Ramadhar said he would not make a comment until he had "all the facts".

"I do not wish to publicly contradict my chairman," he said.

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