Former political leader of the Congress of the People (COP) Winston Dookeran has broken his silence. He is not surprised by the imbroglio surrounding San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray's switch to the United National Congress (UNC), but wants to be kept out of the "UNC-COP thing."
Party insiders revealed that Dookeran held the key to the reason why Coudray opted to switch political allegiances, but he refused to divulge exactly what led to the "fall-out" between the former COP member and the political party. The Sunday Guardian caught up with the St Augustine MP on Friday, not at his Country Road, Tacarigua, home which is under construction, but at the nearby Eddie Hart Villas on his return from the beach with his wife Shirley and friends.
Admitting to deliberately "staying away" from the controversy, the former COP leader is of the strong view that the foundation of any agreement is based on principles. And, according to Dookeran, many more "disagreements" are destined to happen in the People's Partnership, as coalition politics comprises such a nature. Like other COP members, Dookeran admitted he was not aware Coudray parted ways with the political party.
Bartlett: It is all lies, COP did not recommend Coudray
This is in stark contrast to what president of the San Fernando Business Association Daphne Bartlett had to say on the issue. A plain-speaking Bartlett yesterday told Sunday Guardian that the COP was not being truthful since it was the association who recommended Coudray to the UNC for the mayorship and not the political party.
"It is all lies," Bartlett said. Dookeran, however, dismissed the notion that he was keeping secrets, and in an attempt to downplay the issue said: "I really do not want to add fuel to the fire."
'There was nothing in writing about who fight who or anything like that'
Pressed further as to what his comments meant and if he was being wrongfully blamed, Dookeran responded as follows during a brief interview:
Q: Fingers have been pointed to you as being the one to blame for Ms Coudray's switch to the UNC. Why is this so?
A: I do know about the Marlene Coudray issue. You will need to talk to her.
Did you know Ms Coudray left the COP?
I did not know about that. I am not even following what she is saying.
Did you ask Ms Coudray to go up against San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning?
I have nothing to say. Ask her.
Was Ms Coudray chosen by the COP as the Mayor for San Fernando?
As far as I know, yes. Prakash Ramadhar and they were in charge at the time of those talks during local government elections.
Was Dr Anirudh Mahabir's name submitted for the mayorship?
They were all discussed. I remember... Anirudh Mahabir, Coudray... and I think she was chosen.
Did the UNC chose Ms Coudray as the Mayor of San Fernando?
Talk to her. I do not want to get involved in that UNC-COP thing. It is not that I do not want to talk. I do not want to add fuel to what is going on. The Fyzabad Declaration should be honoured though.
Did the Fyzabad Declaration state that the mayorship of San Fernando goes to the COP?
No, no. If you read the agreement it is a statement of principles. It was during the time of the general elections and then there were local government elections.
Mr Ramadhar stated that the mayorship agreement formed part of the Fyzabad Declaration. Is this so?
There is a mix-up. The facts are the Fyzabad Declaration was done for the general elections. What happened weeks later (local government elections) was that there was no agreement; there was nothing in writing about who fight who or anything like that.
What are your views on the COP stance regarding San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray?
It is all part of coalition politics. There would always be conflicts to be resolved. They have to talk and sort it out; it is a natural thing.
Is the COP stance for being upset justified?
It is understandable. I do not agree that a split should be allowed. It is two separate issues.
What role are you going to play to resolve this issue?
Me? Only if requested I would have dialogue with everybody. That is if requested. This is part of politics. I do not see it as being bad or not bad or right and wrong.
Can a member of the UNC be allowed to fight an electoral seat for the COP?
There is a protocol in politics. The protocol is that you do not stay in one party and fight the next party. When I was going up as leader of the COP I resigned as leader of the UNC before, as a matter of protocol. I thought it was the right thing to do and I did it.