Last update: 06-Dec-2013 8:12 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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COP, UNC still at odds over local govt seats
The COP executive met last night to discuss alternative proposals the UNC has put to the party for contesting local Government seats in the October 21 Local Government polls, COP acting general secretary Clive Weatherhead says. Speaking just ahead of the meeting in a telephone interview, Weatherhead said while some earlier talks between the UNC and COP had agreed on certain aspects of the Partnership’s campaign position, other items were still outstanding. This includes COP’s proposals to contest all seats in half of the 14 regional corporation areas.
COP put this position to the UNC recently after its National Council mandated the party to seek a larger shareholding to contest. Weatherhead said the UNC subsequently put its own proposal to the COP.
He declined comment when asked if the COP did not want that position. He said the parties had not had a negotiation meeting “in the last 48 hours” and the COP was meeting last night to discuss the UNC’s suggestions and its own position on how to proceed. The latest meeting with the UNC negotiating team over candidates for the local government elections broke down on Monday. A source with knowledge of the unfolding situation said yesterday the national council would discuss whether to accept the UNC-dominated position and accede to its demands, request a leadership meeting among coalition heads, or make the “ultimate decision” and walk away from the partnership. “If the meeting with the Prime Minister does not yield any fruit, then we may have to take the ultimate decision,” the source added.
The source said the COP’s negotiation team, led by party chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, had met with the UNC team of Roodal Moonilal, Suruj Rambachan, former COP member Marlene Coudray and Khadijah Ameen three times in the past month and the meetings had been growing more and more tense until Monday’s “complete breakdown.” “The COP went into that discussion very open and willing to negotiate. Though the party executive was mandated to contest seven corporations for the local government elections, the COP was willing to be flexible. “In the first meeting that position was met with some level of understanding but by the second meeting talks started breaking down. By the third meeting on Monday, it was a total fallout,” the source said. “It is in keeping with what has become the status quo with the UNC/COP relationship. There is no partnership discussion. The Prime Minister is more open-minded, so we are hoping that it could be resolved at a leadership meeting,” the source said.
The party capitulated after the second meeting and went from seven to six corporations, but was still met with an immovable UNC team. The COP sources said the party wanted to keep the San Fernando and Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporations but it seemed the UNC wanted to keep the partnership strongholds and pit the COP against both the People’s National Movement and the growing Independent Liberal Party in their respective strongholds. “The truth is the ILP is making great inroads in the traditional PNM strongholds,” the source said. Another source within the COP yesterday confirmed the fallout and said the COP team included former chairman Joseph Toney and one of the party’s deputy political leaders.
Toney, in a brief telephone interview yesterday, confirmed he was a part of the team, but refused to comment on the stalemate discussions. “Yes, I am on the team, but that is all I am going to say,” he said. The party’s national executive met first at 5 pm and then again with its National Council at 6.30 pm in order to get a democratic decision and is expected to announce its revised position before the end of the week. On Wednesday, UNC deputy leader Dr Roodal Moonilal had said the parties had not yet completed their negotiations but he expected this would be finalised by the end of the week.
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