COP interim leader: Party not avoiding elections

COP political leader Kirt Sinnette. - Photo courtesy Kirt Sinnette's Facebook Page
COP political leader Kirt Sinnette. - Photo courtesy Kirt Sinnette's Facebook Page

THE CONGRESS of the People’s (COP) chances of contesting the upcoming general election, by itself or as part of a coalition, will depend on the party’s ability to hold executive and leadership elections.

The party’s interim leader Kirt Sinnette told Newsday on June 6, COP has seen renewed interest from members and could be on course for a revival.

The party, and others, helped the former People’s Partnership (PP) coalition government into office in 2010, winning six seats.

COP was founded in 2006 by former Central Bank governor Winston Dookeran, who later served as foreign affairs minister and minister of finance under the PP. He was succeeded by Prakash Ramadhar as COP's political leader after stepping down in 2011.

Ramadhar resigned in February 2016 after COP was defeated in seven of the eight constituencies it contested in the 2015 election.

Sinnette issued a media release on June 5, saying, “As interim political leader I am happy to welcome the growing interest by our membership in rebuilding the internal aspect of the Congress of the People.

“It shows that many of you truly do see the need for a regeneration of the ideals that make this organisation unique amongst others.”

He called on members to contact him to discuss “(working) we can work together towards rescuing our beloved country.

“All are welcome, our doors remain open,” he wrote.

Sinnette denied he has deliberately avoided an election, an accusation made by Lincoln Douglas, a COP member and former MP for Lopinot/Bon Air West, in a letter to the media, published on May 31

Douglas accused Sinnette and the interim chairman Lonsdale Williams of refusing to "hold the necessary elections to establish a duly elected executive body.

“This continued delay not only undermines the democratic principles upon which our party was founded but also erodes the trust and confidence of its members and the public at large,” Douglas wrote.

“This is untrue,” Sinnette responded. “Once you all come out, we will have the election. We don’t have a problem with that.

“Some people want to stay on the outside, make statements, and (don’t understand) the process.

“Until (a quorum) is in place, we don't have a problem at all, having the COP elections.

“At the end of the day, we try to operate within the ambit of the party’s constitution.”

Sinnette was chosen as the party’s temporary leader in August 2020 after elected leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan resigned from the post after the People’s National Movement (PNM) victory in the general election a week before.

Sinnette was expected to lead the party until its internal elections, due in December 2020, but has held the temporary post ever since.

He said ideally the elections would be held “as soon as possible” or at least before the next general election.

He said it is too early to pronounce the party’s plan to contest that election.

But, he said, “I want the public to understand that I think the government, at this point, is not doing justice at all to the population.”

He said there was a growing inequity in the general standard of living, particularly among the low-income earning households.

“Also, the people are not part of the building process. I have some serious issues with that."

He said citizens are left "out of the process" to enact change, such as reforming the Constitution, despite the government's establishment of a national advisory committee to oversee stakeholder consultations.

“The COP believes constitutional reform is a myth. We’re not going to have any true constitutional reform if the people themselves are not part of the process," Sinnette said.

In February, COP announced it had joined an alliance with another political party, HOPE (Honesty, Opportunity, Performance, Empowerment), led by Timothy Hamel-Smith.

Hamel-Smith, a former COP member and Senate president, founded HOPE last December.

Former finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira is the deputy political leader of finance. Ex-Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee-Sing is deputy political leader of governance; Steve Alvarez party chairman; and Deosaran Jagroo party organiser.

“Nothing has changed,” Sinnette said of the alliance.

“We continue to strive forward to ensure that when the election is called, that we are all on a good footing.”

Sinnette said he has established a committee to “hold there until the election takes place.”

He said it meets regularly to discuss party business in the absence of an elected executive.

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