CANDIDATE for the chairmanship of the Congress of the People (COP) Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said there have been complaints that the party is losing its identity in the People's Partnership Government and it was important for the parties to "agree to disagree".
"If we are talking about a coalition Government, there are different parties, they want their identity, each must have its identity...one of the complaints about the COP is that it is losing its identity in this Government and this is because it cannot exercise its independent voice within the Government," she commented.
Seepersad-Bachan was speaking with the media at an impromptu interview during the tea break of the Lower House at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, as the Parliament met to debate a motion to have Attorney General Anand Ramlogan removed over the early proclamation of Section 34 of the Indictable Proceedings Act.
She said all over the world today coalition governments, including in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, have an agreement to agree to disagree and "that is what we have to have" in this country.
She noted in the UK system there is a Cabinet note which instructs them how they will agree to disagree.
"So you are free to come to the Parliament as your party and represent your party and represent your position. The problem with us is that we have never moved beyond the Fyzabad Accord to get that agreement in place."
Seepersad-Bachan and Rekha Ramjit will be challenging Joseph Toney for the party's chairmanship at its national executive elections tomorrow.
The Public Administration Minister noted there have been questions about the suitability of her being a Cabinet Minister and serving in the capacity of COP chairman, as there is a view that should be an "independent voice" not restricted by collective Cabinet responsibility.
"I have been saying that is what I think has caused the fracture in our party and the amount of discord and...so many different voices and a lot of disenchantment (was) because you have the party saying one thing and then the Minister is not having to adhere to what the party's position is."
She gave the example of the Section 34 issue. She said a non-Cabinet leader was not the "solution" as that has been the situation for two years, of a non-Cabinet individual (Toney) serving as chairman and speaking out, but not in unison with Cabinet Ministers.
Seepersad-Bachan continued that a non-Cabinet chairman was not necessary because "I think the position of chairman should be someone who has the capacity to build the party, to build back the structures of the party".
She advised that a new model must be put in place for the coalition Government, noting the COP was responsible for bringing the various partners together and has to lead the way and continue with its own policy positions.
She explained that the COP chairman will take issues to party leaders so they can discuss them first before making it a Government policy.
"You don't wait for it to become Government policy in the Cabinet and then look to disagree with it," she added.
Seepersad-Bachan said by working in tandem it will stop the amount of discord in the COP.