Dookeran: PDP, NTA must escape third-party label

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Gary Griffith –

FORMER political leader of the Congress of the People (COP) Winston Dookeran said the third-force label being attached to political parties that are seeking to make their foray into the national political landscape gives them no chance of evolving into political governance.

What is needed he said, is a first party and unless the two recently-launched entities become that first force, they will face the same fate the COP did.

“It doesn’t even point to who is in charge, who is running it, because of the definition the media places, they have no chance. A third party in the electoral context in which they (media) have defined it, will have no chance with the two dominant parties being what they are.”

From the perspective of someone who founded the COP, Dookeran was asked to comment on the announcement by former police commissioner Gary Griffith of his decision to start the National Transformation Alliance (NTA) and Watson’s Duke Progressive Democratic Patriot’s (PDP) entry into Trinidad politics.

Winston Dookeran –

The former finance and foreign affairs minister would have served with Griffith in the cabinet of former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

“When I got involved in the COP, it was seen in the eyes of the media, to our detriment, as a third party. We argued on the platform we were not the third party, that we were in fact the first party in the context of our policy, our vision and our values, etc.

“What this country needed was a first party because a third party meant you had two existing parties which you have to come between. A first party means you have to absorb both parties in the process of giving an alternative.”

It is no wonder, he said, when the COP contested on its own, the 2007 general election, without a coalition, it was able to come in second in 22 seats.

“A point that has been overlooked often, that we ran second in 22 seats, because we were there then in 2007, viewing ourselves as the first party.”

He said a big challenge facing the politics today, is how to create a first party.

“I think the media rush to try to talk about third parties, is simply to keep an old dogma intact. On the issue relating to my own experience and the need to find a first party, how you define and how you break them out is not an easy task, but it is a task that is required.

“I think it is unfortunate that people define these things as third parties, because by definition they mean they have no chance.”

As part of the political process, there will be a continuing search by bodies like the NTA and PDP for some kind of resolution out of this fragmented political situation in TT

Watson Duke –

“Both Mr Duke and Mr Griffith are really part of that fragmented process. It is a natural phenomenon. Where it will lead to, I have no idea at this point.

“Unless it rises to become the first party it will face the same fate as we (COP) had, coming second in 22 seats but first in none.”

Dookeran said he has no advice to give Griffith or Duke, but commended those who were showing interest and doing what they had to do to improve TT’s politics.

Griffith riding on his popularity as the former top cop, Dookeran said, is important and a good point to exploit, but he will have to go beyond that – to trust.

To capture the imagination and cause a shift from the dogma of how politics is analysed in TT, he said, will take a lot more that what has been done so far.

“Trust is a deeper phenomenon that this country is desirous of getting, but popularity is clearly a great start to move from.”