PORT OF SPAIN –– Congress of the People (COP) chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan was removed from the list of speakers for the party’s eighth anniversary interfaith service at the very last minute. The service, which was held on Saturday evening at Plaza de Montrose, Chaguanas, was attended by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
At the function, the seating arrangement also excluded Seepersad-Bachan from the table of dignitaries, which included Persad-Bissessar, COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar and his wife, as well as COP parliamentarians Lincoln Douglas and Rodger Samuel and deputy political leader Dr Anirudh Mahabir. Seepersad-Bachan and her spouse were placed at a separate table.
Seepersad-Bachan yesterday posted on Facebook the speech which she had planned to deliver at the function.
She was scheduled to speak on the original programme. However, on Saturday around 3 p.m., two hours before the start of the event, Seepersad-Bachan was informed by Mahabir that she would no longer be speaking at the function.
She told the Express yesterday: “Yes, I was [originally] on the programme to deliver welcoming remarks. That programme had been decided about ten days ago. So . . . I was a bit surprised when I was told that I was no longer on the programme because the prime minister was coming to the event and would be speaking. That was the reason given to me by deputy political leader Dr Anirudh Mahabir.”
Mahabir confirmed to the Express he did indeed tell Seepersad-Bachan that she was being removed from the programme in order to accommodate the prime minister.
“We thought that the speaking time should be given to the prime minister,” Mahabir said.
Persons attending the event noted that it was unfortunate there was no mention or tribute paid to COP founder Winston Dookeran, who is overseas on government business.
In his speech, however, Ramadhar made a jocular reference to “walking in the rain and not getting wet”, saying that sometimes one had to get wet.
Dookeran had stated at a public meeting last March that the job of COP politicians was to walk in the rain without getting wet.
At the function, the prime minister went to great lengths about the need for the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, as she sought to persuade the audience of its benefits.
Ramadhar also spoke about the bill, which has to return to the House of Representatives for approval of the amendments made by the Senate.
Both Seepersad-Bachan and Dookeran did not vote in favour of the bill.
In the address she had prepared to deliver at the COP function, Seepersad-Bachan called for a “celebration of the camaraderie and the togetherness that brought us together and kept us together despite the forces of dissolution and even sometimes of despair”.
She noted that when the Congress of the People was first conceptualized and conceived, the goal was to be an inclusive party.
“We were supposed to give a home to every creed and race in our society and to provide a voice for those who felt they never really had been properly represented by the other political alternatives.”
Seepersad-Bachan paid tribute to the faith-based organizations of our country, who have supported the COP from the very beginning.
“I recall that at every one of our policy consultations in the early days, they participated and contributed significantly to the development of our philosophical concepts and policy positions within the party. They motivated us and inspired our People’s Charter, which includes our principles, values, and a proposed own code of political conduct, which have guided us in the COP, to the present.
“Unfortunately, at that time, we were unable to get other political parties to sign on to that code of political conduct.”
As she applauded the faith-based organizations and the civil society organizations –– under the chairmanship of Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris and Deryck Murray –– for achieving the milestone of getting political parties to sign on to the Code Of Political Conduct, she gave the commitment that the COP would adhere to that code, and work to improve upon it even further.
“I stand here, today, as a proud Presbyterian who has been informed by Christian values, which have shaped my life . . . values that taught me the importance of service: to one’s fellow man and to one’s country,” said Seepersad-Bachan.
“For the COP, it matters not whether your ethnic group is a minority, or your religious body represents less than one per cent in the national census. You must still have a voice in our country. No census can tell any religious body it is insignificant,” she stated.
“Let’s speak frankly –– eight years is a major achievement for a third party in a two-party system. We have shown –– and continue to demonstrate –– resilience, courage and determination.
“Our theme this evening is One Nation: One People. This evening, we renew our commitment to the cause of a better Trinidad and Tobago. We will need all the will, all the energy, all the enthusiasm and all the talent and expertise we have here this evening; not to mention all our persuasiveness and sheer idealism, to rally the people around us. We must redouble our efforts to reach out to the people of this country, especially those who do not feel comfortable with the politics of race and parochialism,” she said.
“As chairman of this party . . . today, I make a solemn vow to uphold my commitment to who we are and what we stand for, as individuals of integrity, and a party of probity, a party of integrity and a party of principle. We cannot ever abandon the high moral, ethical and philosophical ground upon which this party was built, and which remain our compass, our North Star, and our mantra,” she stated.