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Dookeran should come clean on COP’s relationship with Coudray
Former political leader of the Congress of People (COP), Winston Dookeran, needs to come clean on the party’s relationship with San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray. According to party insiders, Dookeran, who in 2011 bowed out of the leadership race, needs to clear the air on the “real reason” why Coudray opted to switch political allegiances and contest the position of deputy political leader in the United National Congress’ (UNC) internal elections.
Sunday Guardian learnt that an issue involving fighting the San Fernando East seat against former prime minister Patrick Manning, and COP’s choice for mayor all led to a strained relationship between Coudray and the COP’s hierarchy. A COP leadership member revealed the former political leader and members of the party’s hierarchy “knows exactly why, what has transpired, and the way it did.”
“The move did not come like a thief in the night at all. It is the straw that broke the camel’s back that caused this entire situation.” Since being sworn in as mayor, Coudray has been embroiled in a number of controversial issues, with many questioning her leadership style, including deputy mayor and COP member Navi Muradali.
It was in 2007 Coudray fought the San Fernando West seat for the COP in the general election and was defeated by People’s National Movement candidate Junia Regrello. Yesterday, Coudray who has come under fire by several COP members for the move, contested the UNC’s internal elections on Housing and Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal’s Nationalist slate.
The move has been condemned by the COP who said such actions could lead to a strained relationship between the party and the People’s Partnership coalition. Coudray, however, has defended her decision to “jump ship,” saying she was not appreciated as a member of the COP, describing it as a case of “horn meh but doh leave me.”
Coudray has kept a still tongue, refusing to say exactly what was the “real reason” behind her decision. when contacted by Sunday Guardian yesterday, she offered no comment.
‘A slap in the face’
The fallout between Coudray and COP, Sunday Guardian learnt, reportedly took place during the lead-up to the 2010 general election at a well-known restaurant in San Fernando. “She was asked to do battle not in San Fernando West, but against former prime minister Patrick Manning for the San Fernando East seat, and she refused. The request was deemed as humiliating and disrespectful, given that she would have had to resign her job as chief executive officer of the San Fernando City Corporation, the very same position she went to court to keep. It was a losing battle from the beginning and Coudray refused to allow herself to be humiliated in such a manner,” the COP member further revealed.
Also triggering Coudray to part ways with the COP, Sunday Guardian understands, was what transpired during the screening of candidates for the San Fernando West seat. The COP member explained: “Potential candidates were told that they would be contacted when they needed to be screened. Although Coudray was told that she was one of the potential candidates being considered for the San Fernando West seat, no one contacted her to say what time to turn up for screening.
It was Coudray who contacted the COP San Fernando West office on Quenca Street inquiring about screening and was told that if she did not turn up at the office in 30 minutes she would not be considered. Different excuses were given for the lack of communication. Someone said they left a voicemail message on her cellular phone, while another person said it was an oversight. What really happened? Nobody knows.”
The last straw
The final nail in the coffin, the COP member said, was caused by the conflict surrounding the choice for mayor. “The leadership of the COP told Coudray that she was the pick for mayor but at the last minute they submitted the name of a San Fernando doctor. The COP’s choice of mayor was turned down because the feedback from the business community was in support of Coudray. It was based on this feedback that the hierarchy of the UNC intervened and asked her to be the mayor,” the COP member explained.
But even then, the COP member said, Coudray was treading cautiously. “It was only minutes before she was sworn in as an alderman that Coudray tendered her resignation letter personally to the permanent secretary because in politics any number can play,” the party source said.
COP passes the buck
Several attempts to contact Dookeran and Ramadhar proved futile yesterday. Former deputy political leaders of the COP Robert Mayers and Wendy Lee Yuen refrained from commenting on the issue and directed Sunday Guardian to other party members. When contacted Mayers said: “I did not have anything to do with that process. Probably political leader Prakash Ramadhar and Lee Yuen may be able to shed some light on the matter. I was not involved.”
However, when Lee Yuen was contacted, she said: “Each deputy political leader had different responsibilities. I was dealing with policy matters and the issues in question involve administrative matters. I cannot recall any of those issues coming before me. Quite frankly, I am out of politics because I think all this pettiness that is going on is counterproductive. This country has serious problems and we need serious people to fix it.”
Explaining that the screening process was handled by a subcommittee, Lee Yuen further explained: “I was not part of any committee that was selecting the choice for mayor. I was of the view that it was an internal matter with the councillors having an opinion. Do we really have new politics? There were co-ordinators for different districts; I can assure you, regardless of what people are saying, I had no part to play in those decisions.”
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