Sunday November 26, 2017
Members of the National Council
Members of the National Executive
Representatives of Faith Based organizations
Colleagues, fellow COP members, fellow citizens dedicated to our beloved country Trinidad and Tobago. As is this country ever needed God’s help and guidance, now is the time. If this country, our Mother Trinidad and Tobago, ever needed a new solution to the polarisation, the empty rhetoric, the corruption, waste and neglect that is so evident and increasingly getting worse, now is the time. We, the Congress of the People; We, who are beyond race, religion and region and are for all races, all religions and all regions, now is the time to take up the challenge with boundless faith in the destiny of our beloved country.
It is fitting, in fact it is prophetic, that the words I find most appropriate to capture the essence of the challenge that we face now and capsulize our mission, comes from St Paul. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, he said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
My fellow COP members, the new has come. But in embracing the new, we have to acknowledge the old and build on it. First, I want to thank all of you for your attendance, your support, your encouragement and most of all your commitment to our party, the Congress of the People. The new has indeed come. Today marks the spiritual rebirth of our party. Let me say a special thank you to the representatives of the various faiths who took time out of their busy schedules through prayers and messages contributed to this spiritual rebirth. Today also marks the rebirth of the COP spirit. To members of the COP family present here and the many who were unable to attend thank you for being part of this occasion. Today’s function marks a new beginning, a new dedication within our Party and a new spirit among us all. You have given me a great responsibility and in deed I am humbled – to stay close to you and to serve you…. And for this I say “Thank you”.
We can lament that our voter turnout was low. But this party started with 15 people who facilitated 50 meetings in 10 nights. And with 15 people we grew to over 40,000 members and eventually won 149,000 votes all within one year. But 589 is about 39 times 15. Not only can we do it again but we are ready to take this to the next level.
Against all adversity, uncertainty and the general sense of apathy to politics, these 589 members took time our of their busy schedules to vote in this election. And they must be commended for continuing to believe in the philosophy and vision of the COP. They are part of the mustard seed that will continue to germinate. They have rejuvenated the inner activist in all of us, and sends a loud and clear message that there is hope for us to get things right as we emerge into the political playfield.
There is a realization that the failure of the business-as-usual politics based on race and rewards will not allow us to emerge from the crisis this country faces. There is a realization that our philosophy and mission can be 36 times more effective in taking Trinidad and Tobago into the 21st century. As Black Stalin sang so many years ago, “Our country needs us today more than ever” and the chorus, that should be our rallying cry, our slogan, not just for us but for our beloved country, “We can make it if we try, try a little harder.” We can make it and we will try.
We know the road ahead is filled with challenges. However, we are not daunted. Some say we are at rock bottom. A good place to be as it presents us with the opportunity to rebuild a solid foundation as strong as a rock. In addition, the prevailing toxic political environment present further challenges which we must overcome for this mustard seed to continue to germinate and to eventually bear fruits.
But how do we regain the trust and confidence that so many of our fellow citizens reposed in us. I have learnt that we will be judged by our actions and deeds and not our communications. We can talk the best possible game but to win the hearts and minds of people we must walk the talk and walk the walk.
Community Circles and Organs of the party
You would recall that The COP advocated strongly for community based governance. In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution we will immediately begin the process of re-establishing community circles throughout Trinidad and Tobago. As we engage communities there will be anger because we let them down. However, all good organisations go through the process of forming, storming, norming and performing. The storming is inevitable. But if you take it, if you weather the storm, the performing will happen. We will go out there and we will together face the storm and help communities to perform by demanding performance from those to whom they gave power.
Each circle will be encouraged to take up activities that are in the interest of that community. They will collaborate with NGOs, CSOs, FBOs and other stakeholders within their communities. The central organs of the party, be it the women’s arm, the youth congress, the national executive the parliamentary caucus or the local government caucus, will be required to support the initiatives and tasks undertaken by our community circles. The hub of activity for this party will therefore be focussed on Community Empowerment and supported by all of us who at the leadership level because we are here to serve you
This is how we will bring about servant leadership as enshrined in our Constitution.
The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve and to serve first.
As servant-leaders our primary focus is on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.
We will reap our future benefits when those persons we have served, grow intellectually and spiritually, and that while being served, they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and most importantly, more likely themselves to become servants… and the servant leadership cycle continues. Most importantly this is how new 21st century politicians will be developed as servants of the people.
Over the next 100 days we will strengthen and in some cases, re-establish the organs of our party to serve you in this way.
Principles of Good Governance
In accordance with the principles of Good Governance, all the Institutions and organs of the party including our community circles and constituency executives will be open, transparent and accountable and will at all times abide by the Constitution of our party. Towards this end they will operate by newly designed processes and procedures. Over the next 100 days we will develop and implement technology based systems will to allow for the ease of accountability and transparency. We will also establish an auditing team to ensure that these procedures are adhered to at all times
How we govern ourselves internally is how we will govern a country.
We have advocated and lobbied for campaign finance reform. We will start this process by instituting new procedures for party financing in accordance with this mandate.
Policy Teams, National Conversations, Solution Series
The COP was known for its rich dialogue and conversations. Over the next 100 days we will be establishing our policy teams that will formulate solutions to national problems starting with crime, economy, health, employment and housing. We will not just talk but will act in association with the real stakeholders, the citizens of this country, who are for the most part being ignored, abused and exploited.
There is much untapped potential in this country waiting to be exploited and in so doing allow us to become one of the most progressive countries in the world.
Over the next 100 days we will also be launching the Solution Series, which will involve the many young people who have come forward and volunteered their services in research and development for the various policy teams. Many of them are rich with ideas and enthusiasm. They will help us to sustain the spirit of optimism, the “can do” attitude that will take us forward. They will be responsible for and tailoring the national solutions developed by the policy teams at the community level and to support the community circles in advocating for the implementation of these solutions.
Most importantly, the solutions series will also attempt to identify new opportunities for entrepreneurship towards supporting and facilitating community circles engaged in community entrepreneurship projects.
Cadre of Young Leaders.
This is how we will develop a cadre of young servant leaders capable of leading in various spheres of our society including at the community, regional and national levels. They will learn to practice principled centred leadership and the principles of good governance.
We will also reinstitute the weekly training and development programmes in public speaking in order to ensure that there are no offensive and discriminatory remarks by our public speakers and who will only focus on issues and solutions. In our party there will be zero tolerance for racial and ethnic slurs and character assassinations in accordance with our Peoples Charter.
We use our public platforms to celebrate diversity and to bring about unity, this is how we will engender innovation in our country.
Trinidad and Tobago cannot be rebuilt by our generation alone. All that we say and do from now on must be based on the bedrock of this party’s beliefs and philosophy.
And let me say to all including our young people. Do not be dismayed by critics publicly stating that COP is too idealistic because that is exactly what the new politics for this country urgently needs – ideology
Members of the COP family, as I have stated publicly, in keeping with the tenets of our party, there will be no maximum leader. I want no blind loyalty to Carolyn. What we urgently need is loyalty to our philosophy, vision and our principles and values.
I also stated publicly that we would establish a leadership team to assist me as political leader in defining the way forward.
I please to announce those who have agreed to serve on a leadership team. Others will join this team after discussions in due course. Let me thank the following for agreeing to serve on this team. Mr Bernard Pantin, Dr. Solaiman Juman, Ms. Hulsie Bhaggan, Dr. Merle Hodge and Dr. Paula Morgan.
As I close, I thank the Almighty for allowing us the opportunity as a party to r-enter, rebuild and re-ignite the flame of hope.
We are still in deep waters and we have a lot to do to reach the surface and then reach the stars. I believe that faith can move mountains. Today this little band of brothers and sisters have rekindled our faith and renewed our vows to make our country the best it can be.
When Jesus met Peter, his brother and father at the sea of Galilee mending their fishnets and he said to them, “Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.” They walked away from their livelihoods and started a new life of unselfish support for their community and for their God.
We have a new mandate ahead of us, to create a political revolution in the minds and hearts of not just COP members, but within all those who thirst for the new politics. Let us together create the new national spirit of unity and trust.
I want to end with a quote from Peter, 3:8 “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” This is how we will go forward. Talk softly, carry a big smile and a strong and solid message of hope and salvation.
May God bless all of you and our party the COP
And may God bless our great nation Trinidad and Tobago
I thank you.