Dookeran downplays farmers’ protest

“As you heard here today, we are in the process of real change,” he told reporters during the tea break of a one-day symposium on Coalition Politics at the Institute of Creative Thinking at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies.

“We are not promoting change, we are in change and in situations like this you will find conflicting choices will have to be made in terms of development for the future and what we saw is a reflection of those conflicting choices that a nation must face.”

Dookeran, who is also the Finance Minister, made the comments in the wake of Friday’s protest action by farmers at Woodford Square, in Port-of-Spain.

The demonstration followed a walk to the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair in which the farmers delivered a letter requesting an urgent meeting with Persad-Bissessar upon her return from Brazil today.

Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath, who has been caught in the middle of the impasse, has lent solidarity to the farmers’ cause. Earlier this week, the HDC bulldozed acres of crops in D’Abadie and Chaguanas, much to the chagrin of farmers.

Dookeran said yesterday that the Government must address the issue by “satisfying the legitimate claims of those who feel affected negatively by that change.

“What the Government must also ensure is that the change with which they are about for good governance must continue and it is in that context that we are witnessing that which is happening at this point in time,” he said.

“With dialogue, conversation, legitimate claims can be satisfied but the development thrust must not be thwarted by it.”

Asked if he felt the farmers’ deserved a public apology, Dookeran responded: “I would be doing a disservice to the dialogue if I answered that question.” Yesterday’s event, hosted by the Foundation for Politics and Leadership, was a Congress of the People initiative.

Dookeran was there to launch his upcoming publication Power, Politics and Performance: A Partnership Approach For the Development of Small States, which chronicles his experience in local politics over the past 30 years.

Contributions came from former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson and several other regional scholars, Dookeran said.

“It is also based on my current thinking with respect to the experience we have had over the last year here (as part of the People’s Partnership) and I think this debate which you heard here has outlined some of the deep challenges facing this society as indeed the challenges facing many other societies,” he told reporters.

Referring to an earlier presentation from Dr Indira Rampersad, lecturer in International Relations, Dookeran said he was surprised to learn that there were 99 active coalition governments in the world.

“I was taken aback by the statistics that 99 countries in the world do have some form of explicit coalition, although we recognise that coalition is part of the process of politics, the 99 countries have explicit coalitions,” he said.

“It is a new experience and we are, in Trinidad and Tobago, in the process of change. We have tried to explore, in some depth, the issues that have been explored here today.

“So, I look forward to dialogue and conversation on the real issues facing this country. Our country needs to raise the bar and raise the standard of public conversation.”


"Dookeran downplays farmers’ protest"

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