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Starting from rock bottom

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Carolyn tasked with rebuilding COP
Carolyn Seepersad Bachan, left, casts her vote at Sunday’s election. Photo by:Abraham Diaz

New political leader of the Congress of the People Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan says she will be relying on the party’s founder Winston Dookeran to play a role in rebuilding the organisation but one political analyst is of the view that the COP is no longer relevant to the political landscape of this country and even with Dookeran it will make no difference.

Speaking to the T&T Guardian yesterday, hours after her election as political leader of the COP Seepersad-Bachan admitted that she is starting from “rock bottom,” but she said, “nothing is wrong with starting at rock bottom and building a good foundation.”

Official results indicate that out of membership of 40,000, only 589 votes were cast in Sunday’s election. Seepersad-Bachan got 416 votes while her rival Dr Sharon Gopaul-McNicol polled 168 votes. There were two spoilt ballots and three ballots were rejected.

Seepersad-Bachan said the low voter turnout was based on a number of significant factors. The party, she said, did not have the resources and so only a small number of polling stations were set up.

In addition, she said, people who voted in the 2014 election could not vote because their names were not on the voter’s list, “and the election commission put in place a strict rule that if your name is not on the list you will not be allowed to vote.”

But the biggest problem she believed was the legal challenge mounted by Dyer-Griffith against the party, “coming three days before the election people immediately thought the election was off and we did not have the resources to put newspaper ads to advise people that the election was on.”

Despite the low turnout, Seepersad-Bachan is confident the COP has a future in the politics of the country.

Her first order of business is to “put the leadership team together to take this party forward, and inviting people who want to join to come, because there are many young people who want to move away from tribal politics and many of them are looking forward to the new politics.”

“We have to regain the trust and confidence of members and faith in the new politics of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said. She will also be going around the country re-establishing a community-based governance for the party, “community circles will become a hub of activity within the party.”

Seepersad-Bachan sees a role for Dookeran in that effort and has been consulting with him.

Dookeran is out of the country and could not be reached for comment. But Seepersad-Bachan said he had expressed an interest in a “role,” if she became the political leader.

“I don’t think he will take up an executive position but certainly he will like to play a role, maybe special adviser to the party, but certainly he would like to be part of the process going forward,” she said.


But political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath believes that with or without Dookeran the COP is irrelevant. He said he did not even “take on the election which says quite a lot that the COP as far as I am concerned it has not regained any place in the political landscape.”

“I don’t think Mr Dookeran has that kind of appeal to people, he is not as pretty as he was before politically,” Ragoonath said.

Ragoonath described the COP as an “elitist party with very few members, which is holding on to an ideal.” But the membership he said has realised that “the party is not a vehicle that will take them further.”

In 2007 the COP garnered over 149,000 votes in the election, but Ragoonath said that only happened because of the split at that time in the UNC and “people were being asked to choose a side. What happened subsequently is that when the COP joined into the partnership with the same UNC many of the people returned to their traditional home within the UNC.”

In addition, he said, the COP was “emasculated by the UNC in the People’s Partnership government and that emasculation literally neutered the COP as any sort of alternative party in seeking government.”