COP: UNC must prove themselves first

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

COP political leader Kirt Sinnette. – Photo courtesy Kirt Sinnette’s Facebook Page

THE Congress of the People (COP) has not ruled out aligning itself with its former political partner the UNC for next year’s general election.

But the COP made it clear that the UNC must satisfy certain criteria set by the party before it considers forming an alliance with them.

COP political leader Kirt Sinnette made these comments on March 13 when asked if the party would form an electoral alliance with the UNC.

The COP was formed on September 10, 2006, when then UNC political leader Winston Dookeran broke ranks from the party.

Though the COP won no seats in the 2007 general election, the UNC condemned it for causing several marginal seats to be lost to the PNM, which won that election.

The COP joined the UNC as part of the People’s Partnership (PP) coalition, which won the May 24, 2010, general election.

During the tenure of the PP government from May 2010 to September 2015, the COP raised many concerns with the UNC over allegations of corruption levelled against the government, especially regarding one-time cabinet minister Jack Warner (related to his tenure as FIFA vice-president) and its share of local government and state board appointments.

The PP became defunct after it lost the September 7, 2015 election.

Other members of the coalition included the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC).

The MSJ left the PP in June 2012 after saying the UNC was ignoring its concerns about allegations of corruption against the coalition.

The TOP and NJAC are politically defunct.

Since the PP ended, the COP has refused to enter into any political arrangement with the UNC.

Sinnette said, “The COP is open to discussion or form an alliance with all like-minded thinking citizens and have the country’s best interests at heart.”

He was asked whether the UNC, in its current manifestation, has such people in its ranks.

Sinnette reiterated, “As I said, we are and will have discussions with like-minded thinking citizens.”

He added, “Once the UNC possesses these qualities with the country’s best interests at heart, we will have discussions.”

Sinnette did not say whether or not the COP believes the UNC has the qualities he spoke about.

He also did not say whether the COP has had talks with the UNC about an election alliance or plans to do so.

Sinnette said the COP is accepting nominations for general election candidates.

He did not identify any particular constituencies that the party is focusing on for next year’s general election.

The UNC and the newly formed National Transformation Alliance (NTA), led by former police commissioner Gary Griffith, formed an alliance for last August’s local government elections against the PNM.

The elections ended in a 7-7 tie between the PNM and UNC, with the NTA winning no districts or corporations.

The status of the UNC-NTA alliance is unclear after recent tensions between UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Griffith, who served in the PP as national security adviser and national security minister.

Addressing a UNC public meeting in February, Persad-Bissessar said the party’s supporters will not be disrespected by other parties or called sheep by those wishing to piggyback on the party’s support base and resources.

In response to that statement, Griffith said he was “disheartened” by Persad-Bissessar’s rhetoric and insulted on behalf of smaller parties, which have helped the UNC in the polls.

He said her comments disrespected those who helped the PP take office in 2010.