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‘Carolyn, Dookeran starved of state funds’

Published: 
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Winston Dookeran

With Congress of the People (COP) founding members Winston Dookeran and Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan out of the 2015 election race, accusations are now flying fast that the dominant coalition party, the United National Congress (UNC), deliberately starved the two MPs’ offices of funding in order to run them out of office.

The UNC has remained mum on the accusations but Seepersad-Bachan’s former office manager, Ramdath Balkissoon, and a senior executive member of Dookeran’s constituency office spoke out on the internal wrangling between their MPs and the UNC whenever attempts were made to get anything of note accomplished in their constituencies.

In the past week, the Sunday Guardian spent time in both constituencies and learned that several businessmen in both areas were often tapped for financial support of constituency events as the MPs’ offices were often under-funded by the Government. 

One member of Seepersad-Bachan’s office described the government’s financial support as a “subsidy,” saying it was a “miniscule amount” when compared to other MP’s offices. 

The Sunday Guardian was informed that Seepersad-Bachan has told those closest to her that she is “done with the COP” and that she holds leader Prakash Ramadhar responsible for the party’s lost ground with the UNC and the electorate.

Balkissoon told the Sunday Guardian that requests from the MPs for deliverables like houses and food cards were deliberately denied in order to further undermine the MPs’ ability to satisfy the demands of the constituents. 

“Whenever requests for house or food cards came in, the ministers would have to be involved in the handover and the MP was left out,” Balkissoon said.

The MPs’ offices were further undermined when UNC sub offices were opened in both Dookeran’s and Seepersad-Bachan’s constituencies to service their constituents.

“It was pretty obvious what the underlying motive was and that was to make sure that Seepersad-Bachan was unable to deliver anything substantial to her constituents,” Balkissoon said.

He said that at one point, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal sent in a request for houses for 23 of the neediest cases, but then reduced that figure to 17.

“I know of one person in that list who got a house. She requested a three-bedroom because of the size of her family but was given a two-bedroom. Seepersad-Bachan advised her to take it because she may not get anything else,” he said.

The senior executive attached to Dookeran’s office related a similar situation at that office.

“It was really tough to get things done; it was like pulling a tooth from a lion. We have files of projects we tried to start and correspondence going back and forth with nothing being accomplished,” he said.

He said the situation forced Dookeran and the MP’s office to seek financial aid from resident businesses in order to fund community projects.

He said at various times the Government would ask for a list of urgent issues or projects within the constituency, but after lists of 31 projects were put together, only one was ever delivered in Dookeran’s constituency.

“And it was the simplest projects, like patching roads and box drains. Nothing major was done in that constituency,” he said.

They both said that the MPs were snubbed by UNC ministers who would do visits to the UNC sub offices without informing the respective MPs. 

“Things like key distribution and food card distribution, it would happen without the MP being invited. It is very insulting,” one member of Dookeran’s team said.

Dookeran out of touch with COP

In a brief telephone interview, Dookeran told the Sunday Guardian that he was unaware that Seepersad-Bachan had declined to file her nomination papers. Dookeran said he was currently in New York en route to Dubai and had been out of touch with the COP’s happenings.

“I really cannot comment on that because, like I said, I am out of the country,” Dookeran said.

Moonilal, Ramadhar find it odd they never said anything

In a brief text exchange, Moonilal said he found it an “oddity” that both MPs’ offices would complain of the housing distribution issue while the Housing Development Corporation was manned by a member of the COP, Rabindra Moonan.

“Mr Dookeran and the other members of the COP have been in high praise of the HDC chairman for his cooperation and support re: housing. I find these observations odd,” Moonilal added.

COP leader Prakash Ramadhar, meanwhile, also found it “odd” that his two former MPs never raised the issues with him. Addressing the issue in a short interview with the Sunday Guardian, Ramadhar said he was “not dismissing” what their offices had said.

“But I find it odd that the matter was not raised in a more formal way with me. There has been no conversation, so I cannot make a statement on this,” Ramadhar said.

With regards to Seepersad-Bachan’s refusal to file nomination papers, Ramadhar said he wished her well and thanked her for her service in the past.

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