The concerns of the Congress of the People (COP) over the agreement binding the members of the ruling coalition were not resolved in talks on Thursday night. Asked during a break if he was happier after the four-hour talks, COP leader Prakash Ramadhar said only: "I wish I was home."
Ramadhar was terse when four of the leaders spoke to the media outside the meeting, leaving most of the talking to Tobago Organisation of the People leader Ashworth Jack. The talks, which began around 6.30 pm, were adjourned after four hours and are expected to resume at 2 pm on Monday.
While some sources said the parties were closer to a resolution, others said the battle is still on. The talks were arranged after the political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah gave the Government until May 24 to address certain concerns of the labour-based party.
The United National Congress (UNC) COP, TOP, Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) are the members of the 23-month old People's Partnership (PP). The need for the talks intensified when COP leader Ramadhar said Persad-Bissessar's UNC had breached the Fyzabad Declaration.
The Fyzabad Declaration was the agreement which established the People's Partnership. Ramadhar said the UNC breached the agreement when it "poached" COP Mayor of San Fernando Marlene Coudray. The UNC and Coudray denied that allegation. Coudray said she joined the UNC of her own free will.
Ramadhar, who is also Legal Affairs Minister, said the leadership of the PP must agree to remove Coudray as mayor and elect a member of the COP to that position. He insisted the declaration made it compulsory for a COP member to be the mayor of San Fernando.
When the first round of talks at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's, was suspended around 10.30 pm on Thursday, four of the leaders walked out to talk to members of the media, who were waiting outside the gate to the premises. The media were not allowed in to report on the closed-door meeting.
Ramadhar, Abdulah, Tobago Organisation of the People Ashworth Jack and National Joint Action Committee leader Cultural Ambassador Makandal Daaga approached. Ramadhar said they had decided that Jack would make a very brief statement. Jack then said the leaders had had "very open and frank discussions on a wide rage of issues.
As questions persisted about the apparent lack of success of the four-hour meeting, Ramadhar responded: "Let me just say that what it says is that we have to have another meeting. And to say anything more than that will be a bit premature." As the leaders started to walk away, the media told Ramadhar the question was being asked in the interest of the national community.
Ramadhar said: "We appreciate that, and let's have patience until Monday." The leaders at that point started to walk away again, but the media persisted with questions. Jack responded: "After the four-hour discussions, we have all agreed that there is no other choice but to keep this (PP Government) together and to continue working in the best interest of the country."