The decision by the honourable Mayor of San Fernando, Marlene Coudray to leave the Con-gress of the People (COP) and join the United National Congress (UNC) has raised several matters that call for urgent clarification. The fact that Ms Coudray is reported to have commented that she did not feel it necessary to tell Minister Ramadar, the leader of the COP, of her decision to join the UNC is nothing short of a blatant discourtesy which in the circumstances may be tantamount to a breach of good faith and trust. Minister Ramadar has described the act as “deadly” and rightly so, because it violates the basic principles of integrity and fair play amongst partners who are supposed to be working together in the national interest. The COP leader has admirably wished the best to Ms Coudray in the contest for one of the three positions of deputy political leader of the UNC but has sent the stern warning that his party will not quietly absorb the disrespect that accompanies the change in political affiliation. This is not the first time that Minister Ramadar has shown that he is prepared to articulate the views of his party, even if they are not met favourably by members of other parties who belong to the People’s Partnership. In fact it was Minister Ramadar who stated publicly a few months ago that it was imperative that the leaders meet to discuss the performance of the Government in light of the Fyzabad Accord.
That Minister Ramadar now has to deal with a defection, so to speak, of a “believed to be” member of his party without due notice is a matter that should not be treated lightly by those who promised change and claim to adhere to principles of fairness.
Of course some bloggers would be quick to chastise me for commenting on this matter bearing in mind that I too switched parties. So for the record, I state from the outset that in April, 2005, I formally indicated that I was no longer under the control of the Chief Whip of the UNC. Although I remained a member of the party, I refused to endorse the position of the then leader, that politics had a morality of its own. I was advised that I should leave politics if I was unprepared to do some of the underhand things that politics demanded. I firmly believed that ethics was part of politics and refused to leave the arena at that stage. When the COP was formed the following year, I did not join initially because I wanted to get further and better particulars about the articulated “new politics” which the party proudly promoted. Upon satisfaction that the principles of the COP were in sync with my belief that integrity must reign supreme even in politics, I left the UNC and joined the party. With each move, I made a public declaration and indicated the reason for changing party alliance. No move came like a thief in the night and, in any event, I ensured that it was clear the party to which I belonged, at any given time. That, however, is not the case in the instant matter because there are thousands who are shocked to learn that Ms Coudray has not been a member of the COP for some time, including the Member of Parliament for San Fernando West, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, who was “disturbed that Coudray secretly changed political allegiances more than a year ago.”
That Ms Coudray, a woman who is highly respected for her integ-rity, has become embroiled in a controversy that has attracted much negative reaction makes the need for full transparency on the issue even more critical because it involves not only individuals but also parties that operate in a sensitive partnership. And while it is appreciated that in the realm of politics, especially in hotly contested elections, there is resort to ambush and bombshells, this particular act of transfer of allegiance has the potential to cause significant damage to a partnership that is already showing signs of fracture. Right to poach Poaching is defined as “taking or obtaining in an unfair or underhand way.” Mayor Coudray has clearly stated that she was not poached but exercised her right to switch parties, a move which apparently occurred some time ago and one with which she is comfortable. As far as she is concerned she is a big woman who has done nothing wrong and further, by her account of events, she was not poached. But despite Mayor Coudray’s forthright indication that she was not poached, there are senior members of the UNC who admit that she was poached but that there is nothing wrong in the act of poaching. The justification for allowing the timely switch, according to the poachers and friends of poachers, is that the COP was born from the stock of poached UNC members so the act is one that should be readily accepted. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
And therefore, on this point, to poach or not to poach, that is the question.
Perhaps we should be asking who commits the greater sin—the poacher or the poachee? It is understandable and justified for Minister Ramadar to express his umbrage for an act that could be described as political treachery and Mayor Coudray must accept responsibility for, at the very least, inadvertently allowing people to believe that she belonged to the COP even when she had already joined the UNC—a date which should be easy to verify. This is not a matter that should be treated flippantly because many people are hurt, shocked and betrayed by her change in allegiance. The former leader of the COP, Minister Dookeran, should also comment on the matter because many can attest that he regarded Ms Coudray as a great treasure when she joined the party in 2007. He even ensured that she was not treated like a “sacrificial lamb” when the seats were allocated for that election. How troubled he must feel that his prime candidate, who he gave first choice, has chosen to leave the flock without even saying a proper goodbye. It is not a matter of who is a big woman with a mind of her own. It is, rather, whatever the size of the woman, integrity must be intact.