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Abdulah: PP values loyalty not competence
Party loyalty not competence and using state funds as political patronage are just two of the things that bothered Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah and played a pivotal role in him pulling out of the People’s Partnership (PP) government.
Deemed to be a “betrayal of the social contract” between the MSJ and the PP, Abdulah, in an interview with Sunday Guardian, said he could not continue to be a part of a political party that based job appointments on party affiliation and strong ethnic support. Privy to such an experience, Abdulah said such a situation occurred during the appointment of state boards.
Subliminal messages such as: “We do not know who that person is. Can’t we get one of us?” rested on the conscience of the MSJ leader. Explaining that the comment “one of us” was not a matter of ethnicity but rather party affiliation, Abdulah said the comment left him “very disturbed.”
“I was a witness to the conversation because I was invited to attend the meeting. The issue was the person was not known to the party and therefore not known to be a supporter of the party. The idea was they wanted a supporter of the party,” Abdulah said.
Explaining that UNC has a culture of politics that is very different from the MSJ, Abdulah said the UNC sees themselves as a party very much akin to that of the People’s National Movement (PNM,) in terms of appealing to ethnic support. “They see the need to use the state resources as patronage. Not necessarily in an illegal way, but for example, you see appointments to state boards as a means of gratitude for long-serving party support and that is patronage. “A similar culture was entrenched by the PNM over many years and the PP had vowed to do differently.”
Party loyalty beats competence
Abdulah also spoke of a comment made by a senior Cabinet member regarding the appointments that also bothered him. “When a particular recommendation was being reviewed, the sentiment expressed by a line minister was that it was more important that chairmen and directors were being chosen on the basis of loyalty and not competence because a competent person may not be loyal but you can try to make a loyal person competent.
“The fact of the matter is T&T as a society is far too small to try and run the affairs of a country on the basis of part of the population,” Abdulah said. The MSJ leader said similar signs were evident as early as four to five months after the PP assumed office.
“The PP had promised to offer something different. The MSJ felt the PP was betraying the social contract as a party and we (MSJ) are not about patronage. “We felt we could not continue like this and I could not live with my conscience any longer without speaking out.”
Abdulah: I raised numerous concerns before leaving
Asked whether he had previously raised his concerns, Abdulah said: “I would have said things to specific ministers and I indicated some of my concerns. There were some issues I brought to the attention of the Prime Minister on a number of occasions, during a few private meetings I requested.”
Abdulah said he also raised his concerns during parliamentary caucuses but said he did not want to betray the confidence of members. “All I would say is that many of the concerns that I was raising and spoke about and what was described as reckless and unreasonable was originally disclosed since March 11, by the MSJ.”
‘MSJ is about the people’
Scoffing at comments made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar stating that he had an “ambitious quest for power,” Abdulah said he was at a loss at what the statement meant. “Only the Prime Minister can explain what she meant, I do not know what she means.
“What is on the agenda is the building of the MSJ and the engagement of MSJ with the citizens of T&T. “We are going to listen to them in terms of their concerns and aspirations, and developing the policy proposals and the ideas to bring about fundamental change. “We need a way out and MSJ is prepared to be part of that process.”
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