Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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COP members trash Dookeran’s decision but say: Carolyn not the way either
Congress of the People stalwart Robert Mayers resigned in disgust on Tuesday after former COP leader Winston Dookeran rejected appeals by a group, including Mayers, to return. “I’m just fed up. Winston has abdicated the responsibility to give stability to COP and by extension, T&T. Current leader Prakash Ramadhar has failed and I expect no difference from Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. T&T is well and truly a failed state now,” he said.
Mayers, who was COP deputy leader under Dookeran, sent two resignation letters to COP general secretary Clyde Weatherhead on Tuesday. This after Dookeran, currently in Paraguay, issued a media statement “anointing” COP chair Seepersad-Bachan ahead of tomorrow’s nomination day for the party’s June 29 executive election.
Calling on members to consider Seepersad-Bachan for the post, Dookeran said he would be willing to serve as COP chairman. Dookeran telegraphed shift of his support from present leader Ramadhar, who is defending the post, to Seepersad-Bachan. Mayers, a COP member since 2006, became inactive in 2011 after expressing concern about the domination of the People’s Partnership (PP) Government by the United National Congress (UNC) and national issues.
He remained in the COP, however, and marched in the demonstration against the Section 34 issue. Mayers’s first letter to Weatherhead stated he was resigning from COP and requested his name be removed from the party’s membership list. Weatherhead acknowledged the letter, seeking Mayers’s reasons for resigning and asking him to reconsider. Mayers sent a second letter, tracing his inter-actions with Dookeran and detailing some reasons for his disenchantment.
Speaking to T&T Guardian yesterday, Mayers said COP’s Kevin Ratiram approached him a few weeks ago on the issue of asking Dookeran to return to the helm. Mayers said he attended a meeting at Ratiram’s Palmiste home last Tuesday, where there were about 40 other COP members from 12 constituencies, including the East West Corridor, Siparia and other locations. The group agreed to formally ask Dookeran to become COP’s leader again.
Ratiram yesterday also confirmed he and several others had wanted Dookeran to return. This was three weeks ago when a report appeared in a newspaper.
COP has credibility issues
Expressing disappointment at Dookeran, Mayers said he would not support anyone except T&T now. “The COP and its entire parliamentary frontline has serious credibility issues. The middle ground that supported the COP is not providing that support anymore and have parked aside,” Mayers added. On whether Seepersad-Bachan can make a difference, Mayers said: “I wish her all the best but I’m not hopeful. She can do better than Ramadhar. I expect no difference.”
On whether she was leadership material, he added: “You tell me what she’s done for the last three years as chairman. Where are the party organisations? She also sat in Parliament and basically condoned everything in PP. So if there’s leadership on her part, I don’t see it.
“Prakash (Ramadhar) is a failure. In 2011 I told Prakash the acid test for leadership revolved around his ability to resolve the issue in Arima where COP’s Arima MP was not speaking to COP’s Arima mayor. It was not resolved. So COP handed Arima back to the PNM in local polls.” Mayers said he suspected the next general election “will be very close, very nasty and based much on tribalism. I want no part of it but will speak when required.”
Contacted yesterday, Vernon de Lima said he was also deeply disappointed Dookeran did not heed the appeals to return for T&T’s sake. He said he had little expectation where Seepersad-Bachan was concerned. “I’m for T&T now,” he added.
Attempts to reach Ramadhar and Dookeran were unsuccessful yesterday. Seepersad-Bachan said she was in a meeting. On Tuesday, however, she said in an interview she was approached “a couple months ago” by COP executive members, constituency chairmen and members, including in her seat, to contest the leadership. She added: “But my position was we should be encouraging Mr Dookeran to return as leader and I would work with him in rebuilding COP.”
She admitted those people did not include dissident COP factions, including Rudy Hanamji and others. Asked about her statements after COP’s last election when she was elected chairman, that she would work with Ramadhar to rebuild COP, she said: “The leader is supposed to set direction and strategy for the party.” Asked if Ramadhar failed to do that, she declined comment. Seepersad-Bachan said she had not spoken to Ramadhar about approaches she had received on contesting the leadership.