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If returned, Toney plans to crack down on indiscipline
Congress of the People (COP) members, including senior officers who speak out of turn, will face harsher action if incumbent chairman Joseph Toney is returned to the post at Sunday’s internal party elections. Toney made the pledge during Thursday’s final debate among candidates for COP’s executive election tomorrow at Charlieville, Chaguanas. The candidates used the opportunity to highlight their achievements and propose plans for the future.
The meeting at Hillview College, Tunapuna was sometimes noisy to the extent that shouts by Toney’s supporters drowned out his challenger Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan’s initial presentation, costing her speaking time. Later, Toney was also on the receiving end of shouts of “No! No!” from the audience when he spoke about some of his work in the party.
On discipline, Toney said COP’s constitution was being reviewed and his administration would have to have harsher disciplinary measures against those who speak out of turn. He said some—including some ministers and councillors—purport to speak for the COP or speak without any authorisation from the executive.
“That has got to come to a halt,” Toney said. On his tenure, he said, “I think I was extremely disappointed at the lack of discipline in the party, and as chairman of the party I ought to have put my foot down a bit harder when initial acts of indiscipline occurred. We even had councillors going to the media and saying what they want, as though they were authorised to speak on behalf of the party.”
Saying the COP’s system of dispute resolution had allowed this to occur, Toney added, “But we’ve reached the stage now where we’re going to have to be a bit harsher.” Toney said coalition politics was here to stay. He said he was not for the COP being absorbed by another party for the 2015 general election or for the COP joining the PNM if it left the coalition.
Seepersad-Bachan, who also said she felt coalition politics was here to stay, said the COP had to be strengthened to be able to influence the coalition government and had to adapt to meet the challenges of the PP Government. “We brought the parties together before. Let’s lead the way again,” she said.
Seepersad-Bachan suggested that a Cabinet minister holding the post of COP chairman would strengthen the party’s position in Government. She indicated she would ask members, including Wendy Lee Yuen, Vernon de Lima and Ken Lu Chee Lip, to return to the party fold.
Another candidate for the chairmanship, Rekha Ramjit, criticised Toney’s lack of information on certain reports and party issues. She said she was against COP going it alone. Seepersad-Bachan and several candidates, including Satu Ramcharan (vying for the post of elections officer) and Nicole Dyer-Griffith (for that of vice chairman), alluded to the COP’s state over the last two years and the need to strengthen it, restore systems and reconnect with members.
Seepersad- Bachan said maybe Marlene Coudray and MP Anil Roberts felt marginalised, as do some members who have “parked up.” She said her views had always been raised at COP’s General Council meetings. Dyer-Griffith said the election predicated the balance of power as COP heads to local government and general elections. “We’re at a crossroads and must make an informed decision for our future,” she said.
She added that she and her husband Gary Griffith were the perfect example of how the COP and UNC could make the PP work. Former COP leader Winston Dookeran opened the meeting, saying the COP was alive and well. His successor Prakash Ramadhar also said the party’s voice was not lost and was still strong. The legal affairs minister said COP MPs were speaking against issues in Government and that the new politics of the party was happening slowly, but surely.
He said weaker partners in governance would have already said, “To hell with it“ and left the PP, but the COP was staying the course.
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