Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 11th 2013 Contents A13
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Congress of the People (COP) polit-
ical leader Prakash Ramadhar and chair
Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan say the
party would consider the lifting of Cab-
inet s confidentiality veil to reveal to
the public the truth of the removal of
a $2 million Rosenbauer water tender
at a cost of $6.8 million to the State.
The two made the comment on Sun-
day at a public symposium on the
financing of political parties at Plaza de
Montrose, Chaguanas, where a panel,
composed of journalist Sunity Maharaj,
radio talk-show host Dr Morgan Job and
economist Dr Patrick Watson, discussed
Asked about former national security
minister Jack Warner s statement that
it was a collective Cabinet decision,
Ramadhar said: "Our position is that
we need to look exactly at collective
Cabinet responsibility. There may, in
any decision, be dissenting voices and
very strong ones, but at the end of which
when the Cabinet decides, under our
present construct, we are all responsi-
He said it may be unfair to those who
raised opposition but that is the way
the Cabinet operated in the past.
He said, however, that the time had
come for the country to examine such
issues as the world looks at coalition
"The need to reform all of our insti-
tutions, all of our conventions might be
at hand now," he said.
He said both Seepersad-Bachan and
himself agreed that all of the information
had not been given to the public with
$6.8m firetruck contract fiasco...
Congress of the People political leader Prakash
Ramadhar, stressing that the party is not weak,
has promised to create a policy document on the
financing of political parties and take it to Cabinet.
Ramadhar made the promise at the party s public
symposium on the financing of political parties at
Plaza de Montrose, Chaguanas, on Sunday.
A panel composed journalist Sunity Maharaj,
radio talk-show host Dr Morgan Job and economist
Dr Patrick Watson led the discussion on the mat-
ter.In his closing remarks to the sparse audience,
Ramadhar said: "This party s resolution is that we
will take from here the great wisdom and intelligence
that you have shared, take it to our party and for-
mulate it into a policy position which we will then
put to the Government, into the Cabinet to which
we belong, to ensure ... that as small as we are, the
COP is not weak, the COP is small but crucial ..."
He added: "It is not about the size of the COP
but the fight of the COP and the ability to sustain
in the face of all of the objectors, of all difficulties,
to continue to work to keep that promise and hope
alive," he said.
The experts agreed that a change in party financ-
ing was needed, but differed, marginally, on how
it should be done.
Saying that most of the electorate was illiterate
or functionally illiterate, Job called for the education
of the wider public as well as the examination of
models in developed countries, such as the United
Kingdom, Sweden, Canada and the United States
He called for Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley
to list the financiers of the People s National Move-
ment. He also called for the country to mobilise
nationally and insist before the next general election,
scheduled to be held in 2015, that political parties
follow "first world transparency."
Watson, director of The University of the West
Indies Sir Arthur Lok Jack Institute of Social and
Economic Studies and chairman of the T&T Secu-
rities and Exchange Commission, said a regulatory
framework must be established to treat with the
problems that arise through party financing.
"The issue of campaign financing, is as old as
democracy itself," he said.
Watson said the first-past-the-post system did
not allow for equal access to financing by all parties
and spoke to the use of proportional representation.
He suggested that the state finance political parties
as is done in other parts of the world.
Maharaj called on the COP to be the change it
wanted to see and for the party to publish its financial
She asked: "What is to stop the COP from printing
the state of its bank account?"
Maharaj said the culture of the society must
change to adequately address the issue. She asked
why was politics so expensive in the first instance.
She said the model of politics currently employed
in the country was one that is expensive.
She said the society was also engaged in the
process of buying a government. She spoke to the
awarding of a security contract to a financier.
When asked about the issue, Seepersad-Bachan
said: "We have to be careful when we talk about
these issues. Was there process? Was due process
followed and what did that process reveal, at the
end of the day, in terms of the best interest of T&T?
"I think sometimes we lose that fact... All fin-
anciers of all political parties are allowed to par-
ticipate in the procurement processes of the country.
What we have to ascertain is whether that process
was administered fairly in the best interest of T&T
and in the interest of value for money."
to draft policy
respect to the $6.8 million expenditure but he said,
to say anymore would be to lift the Cabinet confi-
Ramadhar recalled that the party lifted the veil
during the Section 34 issue. He said Prime Minister
Kamla Persad-Bissessar had then authorised the lifting
of the veil.
Her said: "That is a matter we will raise in the
cabinet to see if it is at all appropriate in the circum-
stances, to raise the confidentiality veil."
A T&T Guardian exclusive report revealed that the
$2 million fire tender, which was operating out of the
Arima Fire Station, plunged over a precipice while
responding to an accident report in Blanchisseuse.
Sammy s Multilift Services, a subsidiary of Junior
Sammy Contractors, was contracted to retrieve the
truck at a cost of $6.8 million.
Cabinet had refused, twice, to sign off on the removal
of the firetruck. The report said some ministers objected
to the cost and then Cabinet approved a revised cost
of $6.8 for the truck s retrieval. The original quotation
was $10 million.
On Sunday, Ramadhar said there was a need for
confidentiality, since policy is discussed at Cabinet.
He said if there was a leak in Cabinet he wished it
had been bigger so that, "the whole truth would be
known rather than a part of it." The leaks, he said,
did not necessarily come from the Cabinet.
Seepersad-Bachan said in addressing collective Cab-
inet responsibility, the COP would seek to change the
"All over the world, wherever there are coalition
governments, they have had to relax that responsibility
that collective responsibility...
"As the political leader indicated we have done it
once before and we would consider again. We would
like to lift the veil of Cabinet confidentiality so that
the full facts can go out in the public domain," she
She too said she was not certain the full truth of
the issue had been placed in the public domain.
"We are of the view that the full truth should be
out there. There are other issues in that. Who approved
"The information we may have been presented with
may not be the same information now in the public
domain. The Cabinet can only take a decision based
on the information that is presented to it.
"We don t have all of the information and I think
now it is important for us to get to the full truth of
the issue and get all of the information established
and have that revealed to the public of T&T," Seep-
COP: Public needs
to get the full truth
COP chair Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, left, leader Prakash Ramadhar and Wendell Eversley at
the start of the COP's symposium at Plaza De Montrose, Chaguanas, on Sunday.
PHOTO: SHASTRI BOODAN
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