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Charles: The PP is broken
Trinidad and Tobago is a broken and divided country and because of this disunity, we cannot come together to even fight the criminals who are making the lives of citizens almost a living hell. This stance by DR CARSON CHARLES, political leader of the National Alliance for Reconstruction and president of the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco), is the driving force behind his decision to push for a grand alliance to save the country from further traumatic experiences.
Charles is also arguing that the People’s Partnership Government suffered because it did not have the time to properly work out its differences, plans and programmes because of the pressures of being in government.
Q: Dr Charles, it is good to see you still in your cushy job as chief honcho of Nidco?
A: (Bursts out laughing and pointing to a pile of documents on his desk at his Melbourne Street, Port-of-Spain, office on Wednesday morning) Look at all these papers…I have work for so.
Some people are expressing surprise that you are still on the job under the PP administration after giving your grand alliance proposal at the ILP meeting on Sunday.
I am doing my duty here, and I said that Dr Rambachan and I have a good relationship, and as long as we continue to do our work, I guess we can continue to relate to each other on that professional level.
Excuse me, Dr Charles, were alcoholic beverages served at that function on Sunday?
(Rocks back in his swivel chair, nearly falling over the chair in an even louder burst of laughter) That’s a good one, Clevon…that’s a good one. Not during the function, no. I have no idea as I wasn’t there.
You may wonder why I asked that question...
(Still laughing aloud) Of course.
Some are saying that perhaps you were inebriated when you made your grand alliance proposal.
That wasn’t the first time that idea was thrown out, it has been around for a while, and people are still surprised that the NAR stands for alliance after all these years.
And pray tell, what is the difference between a grand alliance and a small alliance?
A grand alliance is something which is big and growing. We certainly did not think the alliance would start and end with the NAR and the ILP. If that was the impression, that is not what was intended.
How, Dr Charles, do you think the average citizen would define this grand alliance in the context of all the developments on the political scene which is very dynamic at this time?
It is exactly that way…dynamic. You see we start with something small and you grow, so we start with the ILP and NAR. We are going to work together, and we would have our first meeting in a couple hours from now. From there others are invited, and we expect that sometime others would find the value in taking part in it.
There are those who are very uncharitable in their criticism of this proposal, does that faze you at all?
No. No. I don’t pay much attention to these words, you know. We pay attention to what is real, and my view is that we have a broken (a calm composure and soft tone) country, led by a broken family, because the PP itself is broken, anybody can see that. It started one way and…
Explain this broken country theory?
T&T is a divided country, everybody is hurting, everybody is divided..
More than ever before?
I cannot say it is worse than before, but it is really bad right now; look at what is happening on the streets, families turning against each other, fathers murdering their children. We are in a bad way, Clevon.
The bible says something about those end time incidents, doesn’t it?
What I am saying is that we are in a bad way as a country, and a major reason why we are in this condition is because we are so badly divided, one from each other. We cannot even stand up to fight anything of importance...we cannot stand together to fight the criminals, we cannot agree on a unified strategy to fight them.
We think the Minister of National Security is by himself, but he needs the support of the police, of the citizens, of all kinds of groups in the country...you must have a united approach, you cannot fight criminality by having more jails, by having more judges, or by having more laws...Obviously you need both sides.
The PP to a very large extent could be likened to a grand alliance...
Yes. It was to unite us all...wasn’t that its purpose? And what happened in the first year? You had the MSJ going its own merry way. Then the ILP, which took a piece of the UNC and a piece of the COP as well. So we are falling apart into pieces, and somebody has got to say let’s put this thing back together again with the benefit of hindsight.
You admitted that the PP as a grand alliance has fallen or is falling apart, what gives you the optimism that the same thing wouldn’t happen under your new initiative?
(Sipping from a piping hot cup of coffee) I was born an optimist, so if people wonder why after all these years Carson Charles is still pursuing unity in this divided country, it is because I was born an optimist. I do believe we can be better than we were yesterday
What in your opinion, Dr Charles, is the most serious dividing factor in the country?
(Quickly responding) People don’t spend the time working out their differences and working out ways of living with their differences in advance. We are too much of a quick fix country. Two men want to work together, and the best way to work together is to decide what you are going to build.
But Dr Charles, didn’t the PP have a vision of uniting the people?
(Another sharp response) They did not spend sufficient time, in my view, working out with each other what they were going to do, and I am not going to blame them because it was a rush; Mr Manning called an early general election. The present PM, who was then deputy leader of the UNC, had to become the leader of the UNC, a moment later she had to become Leader of the Opposition and another moment became the Prime Minister.
So how much time was there to work out differences, to work out programmes together, far less to get the opportunity to actually try to implement any of them together before you are in government.
Are you saying, Dr Charles, that after almost four years they hadn’t sufficient time to get their act together, if you are saying that was the case?
You mean while you are in government? Under the pressures of government... while you are working with the demands of government? Oh no. The demands of government do not allow you the luxury of working out how you are going to fashion arrangement to cooperate and so on. The advantage the NAR has is the fact we went through it first. We know what happened.
Dr, what is the numerical strength of the NAR, as I am sure you have heard the assertion that the party is almost dead?
We have just around 2,000 members, and we have been on a vigorous drive to reactivate our membership
How do you think this grand alliance would go down with the PP coalition given the recent bad political blood that flowed during the recent election campaigns?
Well, obviously some people would be wondering what is Carson Charles all about, how come he talking to Jack Warner and the ILP? But isn’t that precisely what we are supposed to be doing? We have to learn to talk with the people we have fallen out with.
Give the depth of the acrimony that took place, do you really believe this move would mesh with the PP?
Yes it is a challenge, isn’t it? it is a challenge not for us, but it is a challenge for people who have been at war only so recently, which became so personal at times. I hope that they rise to the challenge.
Have you received any negative comments from people in the hierarchy of the PP?
Well there are people having difficulty because of the personal acrimony that developed during the campaign. But bear in mind, time is not on our side. If we wait until we cool down and meet somewhere in a bar and drink and talk, we will be back to square one.
And if we make last minute arrangements for the next general election, that will not work again.
Have you factored in the PNM with this grand alliance?
(An ironic chuckle) The PNM is the punishment we would get for our failure to unite, but we will have a grand alliance with the PNM after we win the 2015 general election.
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