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COP defends Dr Hodge

Saturday, August 9, 2014
Dr Merle Hodge

At a press conference yesterday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said it was a matter of public record that Hodge was a supporter of former COP leader Winston Dookeran, part of COP and had appeared on the platform in support of Dookeran during an internal party election years ago. Ramlogan also said he didn’t know if there was any merit to the claim that her stance was “a hangover from the internal election campaign that did not go too well for the Dookeran faction as opposed to the Ramadhar faction.” 

Yesterday, however, Dookeran said Ramlogan’s remark was “...a triviality.” Dookeran declined comment on Hodge’s statements. He was also mum on whether he supported the runoff poll proposal and if he would speak in Monday’s debate of the bills. Seepersad-Bachan, however, defended Hodge against the AG’s statement. “He should refrain from attacking the professional integrity of others,” she said.

Seepersad-Bachan continued, “I find him out of place and out of line in even referring to the internal COP elections. This is about T&T’s future and not any internal election. I find the AG way out of line. “In fact the COP National Executive has been unanimous in the view that members needed to discuss the issue. We need to ascertain members’ views, we believe in consultation.”

She said the runoff poll proposal will be discussed by COP’s National Council tomorrow and she had no comment on her position currently. Nor did she say if she would speak in Monday’s debate. 

The Guardian confirmed that on Thursday cabinet members held a special meeting on the legislation, including the runoff poll issue and that concerns were raised by several members, including some who felt that the legislation should not be debated in Parliament on Monday. It is understood several felt the public needed to properly understand what the runoff poll entailed, its consequences for parties and pros and cons.

It was also confirmed that concerns had been raised within the Cabinet since the runoff matter was first presented several weeks ago. Sources said the issue was first brought up late last month. It then arose before the Finance and General Purposes sub-committee of Cabinet around July 28. The runoff proposal and other aspects went to Cabinet on July 31 when members of Cabinet who had been out of T&T were back in the country, they added.

 At that meeting at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital, concerns on the runoff poll were raised by several people, they added. However, the legislation was still announced in Parliament  five days later.


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