The Congress of the People (COP) is caught between its 2007 and 2013 identities, says Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development and COP member."You have people who want to go back to the 2007 situation now that we are in the post-2010 situation, and that is the challenge the COP is having," he said, in response to questions on internal wranglings in the party.
"In 2007 the COP was contesting an election in order to beat the PNM and the UNC," Tewarie recalled. "In 2010 it became part of an alliance in order to bring a partnership together to get into political power."He said the current situation was due to a lack of understanding of a "complex" issue by some people in the COP. The issue, he said, is the COP's relationship with the UNC and the political leader of the UNC, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Saying he is in full support of Persad-Bissessar as the leader of the partnership and the Prime Minister, Tewarie said: "If I am going to support her, then I have to work collaboratively with my UNC colleagues who are part of Cabinet and who are all working hard for the country, just as the COP ministers are."I cannot have a purist view of party loyalty. I need to have a more considered view of what is in the best interest of the country."
Asked if the COP had been forced to compromise the principles on which the party was founded in 2007, he said: "When you come into a partnership you have to work out the philosophical tenants on the basis of compromise."Admitting that the partnership had made "terrible" errors, he said: "Some people have a more purist view than others on the business of compromise."
Commenting on reports of a motion to remove Prakash Ramadhar as leader of the COP, Tewarie said the leadership issue did not come up at the party's national council meeting on Sunday, but there were "heated" discussions about other issues.
Members present at the meeting, described as "one of the worst," urged the COP executive to leave the partnership and stand alone, reports said. The COP MP for Arima, Rodger Samuel, reportedly announced his intention to resign from the party because he felt the COP was being sidelined by the UNC.COP chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said dialogue was continuing on the issue.
In response to claims that he and fellow COP member Ganga Singh were moving away from COP "ideals" toward the United National Congress (UNC), Tewarie said: "I don't know what they're talking about–I have more principles than most people in the world...and I do not have to espouse them."Saying that his main interest is in moving the country forward, Tewarie said: "I am not crossing the floor for any reason whatsoever...I am absolutely committed to the partnership."
He spoke to reporters yesterday after a news briefing to introduce new members of the Economic Development Board and the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation at the ministry at the Eric Williams Financial Complex, Port-of-Spain.