‘A lot of our suggestions not met’
COP disappointed over Cabinet reshuffle...
The Congress of the People (COP) is disappointed with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Cabinet reshuffle.
Speaking to reporters at a media conference yesterday at the party’s Operations Centre in Charlieville, political leader Prakash Ramadhar said while the party respects Persad-Bissessar’s decisions, it has the right to express its views.
Asked if he was happy the reshuffle addressed claims the Cabinet was run by a “cabal”, Ramadhar stated simply: “No.”
He did, however, congratulate the COP members with new ministerial portfolios on their new appointments, including founding member Gary Griffith, who is now National Security Minister.
Ramadhar added he wanted to put on record that before the reshuffle, the COP (represented by him) had several meetings and submitted several documents to the Prime Minister for her consideration on enhancing the governance structure and efficiency of the Cabinet, including reducing the number of ministries.
Noting the Prime Minister’s statements after the reshuffle on Thursday, referring to the recommendations submitted by the COP, Ramadhar and party chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan both emphasised the COP never suggested any names to be considered for certain portfolios.
The Prime Minister had said, “There is always someone who wants someone to go. You know why? Because that someone wants one of them to go because they want their job.”
Ramadhar said this statement was “unfortunate”.
“At no point in time did we name anyone. The real issue is credibility of the Government. We did not put down names; we were concerned about particular issues... A lot of the things we had suggested were not met and in that (vein) we are disappointed.”
He said the party was supportive of a reform agenda for the need for constitutional change that would allow for more proportional representation.
“Coalition politics is for the first time being exercised in the country. The COP is a very important and integral partner in the partnership but as we move forward proportional representation will be at the forefront of our politics... as it is now the Prime Minister has almost absolute power, sometimes ignoring the requests of others. And we have to respect that until it is changed,” he said.
Seepersad-Bachan said the matter of whether or not the COP should remain part of the coalition (as determined by the party’s national assembly) has been postponed until after local government elections (scheduled for October 21), maybe until November.
Ramadhar interjected, somewhat cryptically, that perhaps after negotiations with the United National Congress (UNC)—the largest member of the ruling coalition—the COP “may very well call a national assembly to give us permission or direction on a way forward” about its position in the Partnership, leaving open room for speculation the party might withdraw from the coalition if the assembly decides as such.
For now, the party is focusing on local government elections.
The COP was scheduled to meet with the UNC to determine the allocation of districts and positions to be contested in the elections, but at the last minute the party was informed, via text message, the UNC could not make it, and the meeting has been rescheduled for today, after the budget presentation.
The COP, Seepersad-Bachan said, will contest seven districts solely as COP, including Diego Martin, Arima, San Fernando, Port of Spain, Tunapuna/Piarco and, depending on negotiations with the UNC, Princes Town and Sangre Grande.