STILL IN CHARGE: Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, right, hugs Prakash Ramadhar, who retained leadership of the Congress of the People (COP) in yesterday’s internal election, at Gaston Court, Montrose, Chaguanas, last night. –Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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PRAKASH STAYS

Ramadhar retains COP leadership

By Chaguanas - Kim Boodram

Prakash Ramadhar will hold on to the leadership of the Congress of the People (COP), with just over 55 per cent of the votes in yesterday’s internal party election.
The party saw a low voter turnout, however, with 2,667 of 18,000 registered voters accessing 19 polling stations in Trinidad and Tobago.
Ramadhar gained 1,473 votes, while his nearest contender, Caro­lyn Seepersad-Bachan, got 1,030 votes.
Of the other candidates, Dr Lincoln Douglas drew 162 votes and Rufus Foster, who had announced his withdrawal from the race last Thursday, got four votes.
COP officials blamed the inclement weather and too few polling stations for the unenthusiastic response of party members.
Ramadhar said last night the party will hit the ground running, with a return to its street talk public forum and efforts to strengthen the COP’s position with the ruling People’s Partnership coalition.
Speaking at Gaston Court in Chaguanas following the declaration he had won, Ramadhar said the party will likely engage in some healing and team-building exercises, though he did not feel any of the wounds inflicted on the party during the internal election were so severe.
He said, though, many people had expressed heartbreak with some of the goings-on during the campaign, but the party will continue to focus on the future of the country and maintain the values that formed the core of the party.
Ramadhar also recalled his father, Siew Ramadhar, who passed away last week, and, fighting tears, he said he has always drawn strength from the elder Ramadhar’s values.
The COP leader said the work begins for the party now, with a general election ahead, and as the “unambiguous” head of the party, he intends to build on the trust and confidence of the membership.
Ramadhar said it was time for a move away from the “schizophrenia” of the past and make firm decisions on the political future.
Asked whether he would welcome a return to an active role in the party by COP founder Winston Dookeran, Ramadhar said he would accept Dookeran’s participation at any percentage that it was offered.
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