PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar is defending her decision to not participate in the Leaders’ Debate, saying she was being fair to all parties of the People’s Partnership coalition.
Speaking at a United National Congress (UNC) rally at Salt Mine Trace, Fyzabad on Monday night, Persad-Bissessar said she never indicated to the Trinidad and Tobago Debates Commission (TTDC) that she would have been the one to represent the coalition.
The debate scheduled for last night was cancelled. The nonparticipation of Persad-Bissessar from the debate was the main reason other political leaders, with the exception of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), refused to take part.
Leader of the Congress of the People (COP) Prakash Ramadhar who was selected as the People’s Partnership representative has expressed disappointment at the cancellation.
Persad-Bissessar told supporters “It is now being put out that I opted out of the debate. That I went back on my word and decided not to participate in the debate. That is not true. Nothing is further from the truth. In the first place when the e-mails came from the debates commission to members of my staff, I personally answered the e-mail indicating that Dr Suruj Rambachan would represent us in the first debate and that Mr Prakash Ramadhar would represent us in the second debate.”
Persad-Bissessar said: “The correspondence came back and this was way back last week, and they said no, that they would like me to come as the leader of the Partnership. On the same e-mail I replied and said, Mr Ramadhar is a leader in the Partnership, a partnership of several parties and therefore he should represent us. Today I am reading Kamla drops out of it or opts out, when they knew all along that there was no commitment ever that I would be the person to represent the Partnership”.
Persad-Bissessar said the TTDC was being unfair to the COP by allowing the MSJ to participate even though the MSJ was not represented in the Parliament or in the local government councils.
She said: “In equity and in fairness, I think it was unfair to the COP contesting seats in the local government elections holding seats in the Parliament and therefore I held to my view that Mr Ramadhar was well qualified as a leader in the Partnership and also as a senior Cabinet minister to represent the Partnership in the debate.”