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The build-up to the Congress of the People (COP) internal election is proving that there is still much to be done before we get the politics right, or as I prefer to express it, “the right politics.” When the COP was founded in 2006, many believed that this entity was a breath of fresh air in a political climate that had become toxic with contaminated political beliefs that left little room for the growth of the principles of integrity, truth and justice.
The population was prepared to entertain the philosophy of a party that promoted the voice of reason and objectivity in a political landscape that had degenerated into tribal politics. The creation of the COP marked the birth of an exciting political era in which thousands of citizens became interested in being a part of “new politics” which would inevitably lead to political maturity and greater national awareness.
In the months leading up to the 2007 general election, the COP generated a burst of political enthusiasm but was unable to win a single seat. Many political pundits predicted its demise but were all proved wrong when the party continued to remain alive, albeit not as energised, during the years before the next general election in May 2010.
And since then, the party has had a change in leadership, with the founding father and first political leader of the COP, Winston Dookeran, being referred to by name more than being seen at party meetings and events. Unless this gentleman, whom many regard as a decent politician, is very naïve or totally out of the political loop—both of which I seriously doubt—he must be very unhappy with the direction in which the COP is heading.
In fact, I would not be surprised if people have already begun petitioning Mr Dookeran to take a more active role in the affairs of his party in order to restore its good image and win back the hearts of those who once cherished the COP.
The former political leader must be in possession of all the documents, including charters and policy statements that stated in clear terms the political and ethical framework upon which the COP was meant to operate and it must cause him great distress that his party appears to be operating contrary to the very terms that it once so bravely articulated.
One only has to listen to the presentations of some of the candidates for the top posts who prefer to cast aspersions and launch personal attacks on their challengers in order to win the support of the voters. Very little time is being spent addressing the main issues at hand and explaining to the membership the specific measures that will be adopted in order to reignite the passion of those who feel betrayed by the current operation of the party.
One contender for the post of chairman believes that it is not the duty of the chairman to revive the community circles and ensure that all these units are up and running effectively. This individual believes that the chairman is entitled to rely on reports from constituencies only and is not mandated to take a hands–on approach in the matter.
Well, I beg to disagree, because if the person at the helm is aware that there are organs in the party that are not functioning, then it must be his or her responsibility to go to the source of the problem and fix it. Anything short of getting directly involved in addressing the deficiency is tantamount to a dereliction of duty.
And while some articulate the view that the chairman of the COP ought not to be a sitting member of the Cabinet, I fail to appreciate the justification for this position. It has been suggested that it is necessary for the chairman not to be subject to the collective responsibility of Cabinet decisions, but in a coalition government, each party is entitled to maintain its independent identity and can agree to disagree.
Bearing in mind all the recent controversies in which the COP has been accused of compromising its principles, it would be more helpful for the COP to take the Fyzabad Accord to the next level by suggesting to its partners in the coalition that there should be an Agreement for Stability and Reform, a document similar to that issued by the UK Cabinet Office in 2010.
Having a chairman who is not a Member of Parliament has not made the COP more independent, neither has it united and strengthened the membership. Therefore, this argument should not be used in this election to favour a candidate who does not carry ministerial responsibility.
It is time for the COP to wake up and realise that it is quickly losing its political significance and that this election is an opportunity to get the politics right.
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