PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 22, CMC – Chairman of the ruling United National Congress, (UNC) Austin “Jack” Warner, has expressed “some degree of disappointment” with the position adopted by the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) as the coalition People’s Partnership government moves towards celebrating its second anniversary in power in Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday.
The MSJ, one of five coalition partners, announced that it would not be attending the rally at Chaguanas in Central Trinidad and would also withdraw its members from all state boards.
“To demonstrate our concerns with governance in the State sector we will be withdrawing all our members from State boards, with the exception of the tri-partite boards,” MSJ leader David Abdulah said, adding that tri-partite boards, which include labour, business and government, would not be able to function without a labour presence and that would obviously affect citizens.
Abdulah said that the MSJ, which along with the UNC, the Congress of the People (COP), the Tobago Organization of the People (TOP) and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), formed the coalition that came together to oust the Patrick Manning led People National Movement (PNM) on May 24, 2010, was concerned about reports the state sector governance culture did not change following the general elections.
“All that has happened is that faces have changed; nepotism, discrimination, patronage and corruption are still the order of the day in too many enterprises. The “winner-take-all” culture of the PNM is very much alive in the view that it is “we time now” and party loyalties count for more than merit in appointments. This is not the change that people voted for on May 24, 2010,” he said.
Abdulah said there will not be change until the “system of governance changes,” adding “though we are aware that a new sub-committee of Cabinet has been established to develop this.
“In the absence of such reform it is incumbent on the government to demonstrate that it has the political will to effect a change in the governance culture. This has not happened,” he said.
“It is this perpetuation of the old PNM approach to governance that has resulted in the expressions of discontent by many sections of the national community. Too many feel that the change that was promised has not materialised. This is what was at the root of our ten-point list of concerns that we placed before the government,” he said.
Abdulah said now was not the time for silence or “hiding of the proverbial heads in the sand.
“Someone must speak truth to power and say to our colleagues in government all is not well. And we must correct the wrongs or run the risk of losing the confidence of the people,” he said.
The COP has also said that it would be inappropriate to participate in the May 24 celebrations with the party’s chairman Joseph Toney noting there is disappointment with the government.
Toney, who said he had brought up the issue last week with other coalition members, told reporters “I did indicate I found the whole matter of a celebration at this point in time not apt.
“We have to be careful of the signals we are sending to the population. There is some discontent, some disillusionment, there is some of those who are without hope because they feel that the People’s Partnership is not going down the straight and narrow track that we promised the people in May 2010 and I did warn we have to be very very careful of the t he type of message that we are sending by that event…”.
However, over the weekend, the COP leader, Prakash Ramadhar said he would attend the rally, but would be delivering a “special” message.
Warner, who is also the Acting Prime Minister, said that the developments the MSJ’s participation in the rally would be dealt with when Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar returns from Barbados, where she had been attending the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-Mexico summit.
“I have observed with some degree of disappointment the statements made by the political leader of the MSJ, Senator David Abdullah. It is interesting to note that Senator Abdullah sought to withdraw his members from State Boards but stopped short of his own withdrawal as a Senator,“ Warner said.
“It is of further interest that this action was taken just twenty four hours prior to the scheduled return of the Honourable Prime Minister to our country. One would have imagined if not out of respect, then out of prudence, Senator Abdullah would have afforded the Prime Minister the opportunity to learn of his decision and allow for any discourse with the leaders of the Partnership,” he added.
Warner, who is also the Works Minister in the coalition government, said that “the people will be the ultimate judge of the decisions which we all make and the manner in which they are arrived at.
“The Prime Minister has been appraised of the matter and has advised that she will be dealing with all matters surrounding the MSJ’s decision upon her return,” he added.
Eralier this year, the powerful Oilfields’ Workers Trade Union (OWTU), a member of the MSJ, gave the party until May 24 to decide whether ot not it would remain in the coalition, after accusing the Persad Bissessar led administration of being anti-labour.
Abdulah said the MSJ was continuing its “appraisal exercise” on the issues within the Partnership.
“We shall share our assessment at an appropriate time,” Abdulah added.