THE CONGRESS of the People (COP) has gone from being a member of the ruling People’s Partnership government to a party which some have mocked as a “corpse.” But political leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan says the party is very much alive, is willing to contest all seats in next year’s general election alone and will not return to its previous “abusive” relationship with the UNC.
She made the comments during an interview with Sunday Newsday at the COP offices at Edinburgh, Chaguanas.
“The People’s Partnership government was not a coalition government. Back in 2010 when we signed that Fyzabad Accord we envisaged that we would have been part of a coalition government, but we eventually emerged as a partnership with a dominant partner who had a simple majority in the Parliament.”
Seepersad-Bachan said as then chairman of the party she publicly advocated for a change in the way business was being done and to set up processes and policies between the various parties that would have allowed a transformation to a true coalition government (the Partnership consisted of the UNC, COP, Tobago Organisation of the People, the Movement for Social Justice and the National Joint Action Committee).
“That was never accepted, really. It was resisted. And that is why the People’s Partnership, from a political sense, in my view, failed.”
On the belief that the COP became a UNC “B team,” she said with the UNC as the dominant partner, the COP did face challenges in getting its own polices, plans and initiatives into the government.
She said, however, the accomplishments of the COP in the Partnership included: TT Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (part of an international coalition to improve openness and accountable management of revenues from oil, gas and minerals); open data action plan; laptops for students; the Children’s Life Fund; the Economic Development Board; procurement legislation; and the beverage container bills.
“All of these were initiatives of the COP.”
She added: “Yes, we did not get all of our policies, but we were successful in achieving some of them.”
Seepersad-Bachan said there were many who expected the party to be the moral compass of the government and felt the COP should have walked away from the Partnership. She questioned if the COP had walked away mid-term whether there would be have been any investigation into the Life Sport programme, which had been initiated by the party and led to the resignation of sport minister Anil Roberts.
She also said COP voted against the run-off bill which would have maintained the two-party cycle and silenced new parties.
“Had we walked away, the COP would have benefited tremendously, but the country would have suffered.”
She said the party’s philosophy has always been that the party’s interest cannot be put over the country’s interest.
“The mistake, however, that we made that was in 2015, we should have walked away and not go back in this partnership for an election in a new term after our own experiences.
"But you know, like the battered women’s syndrome, you walk straight back into it. You go back right back into these types of relationships.
"And I think we have learned from it and we are better for it.”