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Three-way fight for COP leadership

The trinidad Guardian / Three women are vying to lead the Congress of the People as the almost dormant political party seeks to rebuild and relaunch as the third political force in T&T.

Former deputy political leaders Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Sharon Gopaul-McNicol and former chairman of the party Nicole Dyer-Griffith yesterday submitted nomination forms to compete for the leadership at the internal elections on July 9.

Seepersad-Bachan lost the election to become political leader to Prakash Ramadhar in 2014.

Dyer-Griffith resigned from the party in 2015 and quietly returned last year. Gopaul-McNicol, a former COP executive member, had been keeping a low profile since the party’s dismal defeat in the 2015 general election in which it won no seats.

Two of the nominees the T&T Guardian interviewed believe there is a chance for the COP as an alternative party because citizens are fed up of the ruling People’s National Movement and the Opposition party United National Congress.

The three women filed their nomination papers at the COP’s Operations Centre in Charlieville yesterday.

Former MP Lincoln Douglas, a former COP executive member, had requested nomination forms but was not expected to go any further with them, party sources said.

Ramadhar, who resigned in 2016 as political leader after calls from within the party for him to do so, declined requests for him to run again. He said he wants to leave the way open for those who want to lead.

And, incumbent leader, Dr Anirudh Mahabir, who said he was only finishing Ramadhar’s term for him, said he has no time or energy to lead a political party.

Seepersad-Bachan, speaking with the media after her nomination, said calls were made for her to contest the post by party supporters, in particular, a group calling itself “the veterans”. She is one of the founders of the party which was then led by Winston Dookeran, a breakaway from the UNC.

She was accompanied yesterday by her husband and some of the veterans.

“I was very heartened by the calls made for me to contest the post by a group of COP veterans. I am getting a lot of support from genuine COP supporters, and those who were there at one time and are interested in returning to work for the party.

“This time around, I see a lot more support coming in.”

She said, “this is a group of people who are not interested in the type of politics we are seeing today. A lot of people are very disheartened with the current political leaders and their behaviour.

“There is a future for the new politics in this country. There are many who are quite keen on seeing the party revive.”

Seepersad-Bachan insisted the COP can become an alternative to the two main political parties in T&T, the PNM and the UNC, because it has a track record.

“We gained 149,000 votes in 2007 and the People’s Partnership’s success in 2010 had a lot to do with the COP’s base.”

The COP was one of five parties in the PP’s coalition.

She said she wants to rebuild the trust and confidence of the people in the COP.

Dyer-Griffith resigned from the COP in February 2015 after Ramadhar said he supported former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s decision to fire her husband, former national security minister, Gary Griffith from her Cabinet. He was fired after he made a criminal complaint against former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan alleging witness tampering in a civil lawsuit against Prime Minster Dr Keith Rowley. That investigation is still under probe.

Accompanied by her son, Gary Griffith 111, she said she decided to contest for the leadership of the COP because, “We are almost on the precipice of losing ourselves as a country. There has been a growing voice of dissent among swing voters who would have given the PNM the opportunity, who are now verbalising their level of disappointment. The population is disappointed in the two main political options.

“It was not an easy decision, one I have been grappling with for many months. I joined the party quite quietly since last year and many people approached me to consider. And that was not something to be taken lightly.”

Dyer-Griffith said she, also, wants to push the COP as an alternative party.

Gopaul-McNicol asked to be interviewed at a later time because she wanted to meet with her team.

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