Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

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PM: I didn't say Dookeran betrayed party

...Jack lashes out: Where's his loyalty?

By Renuka Singh

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday denied that she was referring to former Congress of the People leader Winston Dookeran on Saturday, when she spoke of issues of trust and divisions within the People's Partnership coalition government. However, National Security Minister Jack Warner yesterday lashed out at Dookeran for putting financial supporters before his loyalty to the Government.

Persad-Bissessar, who is political leader of the United National Congress (UNC), which has the largest membership of the now four-party coalition Government made her remarks at a congress of the UNC at Rienzi Complex, Couva. Warner is the party chairman. The other coalition members are the Congress of the People (COP), the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC).

She said Saturday, "For those within the Partnership who think otherwise and would wish to go it on their own, let me also confirm that the electorate will chew and spit out such individuals or political groups who are seen to be betraying the trust that has been placed in the Partnership. That is why sometimes contrary to your own desires as members of the UNC, I have borne the pains of insults, the stress of threats and sometimes what amounts to blackmail of my leadership."

Dookeran, who is Foreign Affairs Minister and returned Saturday from Santo Domingo where he attended a Cariforum meeting last week, sent a statement from that country, appealing to the Prime Minister for compassion in the Dr Wayne Kublalsingh issue.

Kublalsingh's hunger strike, which enters its 19th day today, is in a bid to impel the Government to undertake an independent technical review of the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Point Fortin highway. In that statement Dookeran said: "In all aspects of public policy, there must be compassion and compromise and Trinidad and Tobago must not be seen in the eyes of the international community as a decadent society." At a meeting last Monday, the UNC leaders vilified Kublalsingh for his stance.

The Express yesterday sent Persad-Bissessar a question by text on whether she was referring to Dookeran in the speech Saturday, Persad-Bissessar simply responded "no", but in a telephone interview yesterday, Warner was more vocal on Dookeran's call for "compassion" from the Government on Kublalsingh's hunger strike.

"I know that the Kublalsingh family are financial supporters of the COP with millions of dollars through EIL (Electrical Industries Ltd)," Warner said.

Kublalsingh's younger brother, Hayden Kublalsingh, is a director at EIL.

"That does not give Dookeran the right to make a statement contrary to the Prime Minister's while he was miles away and not full briefed on the situation," Warner said. "No Government can run this way," he added.

The COP held its executive meeting yesterday at the COP office in Charlieville and both current COP leader, Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar and party chairman, Public Administration Minister, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan refused to comment on the issue.

"I will not be making a statement at this time," Ramadhar said as he exited the building.

When asked if Seepersad-Bachan would say anything on the issue, Ramadhar said, "No one is authorised to say anything." Moments later when similar questions were posed to Seepersad-Bachan, she said, "No comment."

Hayden Kublalsingh, in a brief telephone interview yesterday admitted that he was involved with the COP, but said he was not going to allow Warner to detract from the issue.

"The members of the Highway Re-Route Movement are supporters of the People's Partnership Government and the COP is part of the Government, so I don't understand why Mr Warner would say what he is saying," the younger Kublalsingh said.

He said the issue of party funding is not a national issue.

"The Government's inability to provide a cost-benefit analysis, hydrological report on the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway is," he said.

Dookeran last night attended the COP's seventh annual Christmas dinner and awards in San Fernando. —See Page 16

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