In the public mind the stigma of corruption is still attached to the UNC as it is to the PNM, according to COP deputy leader Robert Mayers who is critical of the opposition grouping's recent arrangement. "If the UNC wins upcoming elections, it would therefore be nothing more than exchange," Mayers added, saying the arrangement should properly allow the COP to act as protector of the people and the national purse. Mayers was overseas last week when the arrangement was cemented among the UNC/COP/TOP/NJAC and MSJ. Mayers returned Sunday.
Stating he was kept abreast of negotiations and was aware of the arrangement's details, Mayers, while supportive of unity, voiced concerns in a statement yesterday. Even if COP agreed to the arrangement, Mayers added that he felt duty-bound to state his concerns in the national interest. He said he received calls from COP members with similar concerns.
He said he would not mount any joint platform although he would go on a COP platform and assist some party candidates. Mayers' statement agreed that, in the context of T&T politics, unity was the "great need of the hour." "However, the concept gaining currency on the ground doesn't seem to be in sync with what the leaders of the Opposition coalition are embracing," he said. "To them, unity is about joining forces to rid T&T of Manning's PNM, which is a useful and expedient start, perhaps, but one that hardly begins to come to grips with the real political challenge of our time. "Somehow, we've been led to believe this unity can be purchased cheaply. That all we need is for Africans and East Indians to work together," Mayers said. "That there are a few ignorant people on both sides who are trapped in the prejudices of the past and if the demagogues and politicians who exploit these divisions just go away, all our problems would be solved.
"Since the date was pulled from Patrick's back pocket, we've witnessed a series of muscle-flexing powerplays by men and women, whose ambitions are far larger than their talents, fighting for positions in a government they are yet to occupy; something we call "counting eggs" in a certain part of the fowl's anatomy. "Thus we will end up with a PNM vs UNC election fight with a few candidates from COP and other parties being thrown in as backdrop to add a thin veneer to their already distorted concept of 'unity.' "What Messrs (Jack) Warner and (Suruj) Rambachan et al fail to grasp is that except for one meeting held in the East, Mrs (Kamla) Persad-Bissessar's recent campaign to become the darling of T&T's politics never crossed the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway and, unfortunately, this is not a local government election. "The UNC hierarchy must understand that in the public mind, the stigma of corruption is still attached to their party as it does to the PNM. Therefore, if they should win this election, it will be nothing more than 'exchange.'
"Mrs Persad-Bissessar is allowing a golden opportunity to once more elude T&T. Her predecessor squandered it in 1995. The transformation process was hers to initiate; which suggests that while she may be in charge of the UNC, she's definitely not in control. "Given the 'garrison' nature of our electoral politics, the public mind can only be relieved of its disquiet if the COP is allowed to play a significant role in which the participation of its candidates would be absolutely necessary to the formation of any future government. This way, the COP would be able to carry out its function as a sort of protector of the national interest.
"Unfortunately, personal ambitions/agendas appear to be taking precedence to the detriment of us all and the big picture remains confined to the category of illusion." Stating that unity cannot be bought "on sale", Mayers said: "What we're experiencing now is the same old politics that drives us apart and the logic hasn't changed in 50 years. "That is why those of us who believe in a new and different day must begin to mobilise along the lines of a genuine national party with a message of hope and of good governance...That is what the COP is supposed to represent."
COP unity team member Clyde Weatherhead: "The process of people coming to terms with the arrangement is still going on. Over coming weeks, this may become less important. Everyone entered the talks with expectations, some realistic, others, not as much. Under the circumstances COP will do the best we can, and our duty." COP unity team member Ganga Singh: "Mr Dookeran has laid down the framework establishing common credentials and the framework for governance ahead and adherence to good governance in the public interest to ensure election promises have credibility. He set up a team under Professor Patrick Watson to report within ten days on the new administration's capacity to fulfill its election promises." UNC deputy leader Roodal Moonilal: "We're not negotiating unity anymore. That discussion is ended. We're finalising the manifesto and that will have optimum contributions of all the parties."