However, whether or not he will give up political party membership of the MSJ remains up in the air.
In an interview with Newsday yesterday, Mc Leod said he will answer questions on the issue of his membership of the MSJ – where he serves as a member of the party’s executive – within “the next 48 hours”. “I intend to respond to that and a number of other questions in the next day or two. I will respond after I hear what is said over the Labour Day celebrations,” he said.
When asked if he would resign his post as Cabinet minister, he made clear his position.
“I don’t intend to do that at all,” he said.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is due to announce a “reconfiguration” of the Cabinet, has already hinted her intention to keep Mc Leod on as a minister, notwithstanding the MSJ’s defection.
In a strongly-worded statement on Sunday, issued in response to the MSJ withdrawal, she said, “We will continue with our labour agenda regardless of the absence of the MSJ. Minister Errol Mc Leod, whose life long dedication to the struggle of the labour movement can never be challenged, remains as a huge resource within the People’s Partnership Government.”
On Sunday, MSJ leader David Abdulah said the MSJ was pulling out of the Partnership and that he would resign as a senator. As at yesterday evening, Newsday understands, there was no official notification to the Senate that Abdulah had resigned or of a replacement.
McLeod was out of the country when the crucial announcement was made on Sunday by Abdulah. Abdulah said McLeod had been informed that the party was considering departing the coalition.
In the wake of the departure of the MSJ, the Congress of the People (COP) yesterday re-affirmed itself to the coalition for “the next three years” even as it admitted there is a perception that the coalition is “UNC dominated” and the process of delivery has been “slower than anticipated”. The COP said the MSJ’s departure was regrettable. It said it shared “some of the sentiments” of the MSJ. The COP avoided criticising the MSJ for its action, but instead was critical of the current state of the coalition.
“We accept that, to date, the process has been slower than anticipated but the COP looks forward to the next three years as we attempt to build on the foundation that has been laid and to accelerate the pace of the work that has already started,” COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar said in a media release. “The public perception of a UNC dominated PP must be and is being addressed.”
The COP leader said the departure of the MSJ was “regrettable.”
“The Congress of the People regrets but understands the decision taken by the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) to withdraw itself from the People’s Partnership,” Ramadhar said. “We share some of the sentiments as regards its political leader, David Abdulah’s decision to resign as a Government Senator.” He did not say what those particular concerns were.
Ramadhar said the MSJ withdrawal was “regrettable particularly in light of the failure to deepen the coalition especially as regards a shared political programme to 2015.”
While the MSJ was a signatory to the Fyzabad Declaration it did not have a seat in the House of Representatives and its logo did not appear on the PP manifesto cover. The MSJ had one senator, appointed by Persad-Bissessar, Abdulah. Another coalition partner, National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), which has no seat, described the MSJ withdrawal as “unfortunate” and called for MSJ to reconsider.
“NJAC is quite appreciative of the MSJ’s contribution and commitment to the growth and development of Trinidad and Tobago and hopes that it will review its decision to withdraw its participation from the process of building a new and just society as structured by the People’s Partnership,” NJAC said in an unsigned press release. The party also re-affirmed commitment to the coalition.