Defection of San Fernando mayor sparks coalition worries in T&T

(Trinidad Express) The Congress of the People (COP) is outraged that with San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray being elected UNC deputy political leader she has in effect taken the COP mayorship with her to that party.

COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar said yesterday this is a betrayal that could signal the collapse of the coalition People’s Partnership government.

Coudray announced her departure from the COP three weeks ago and subsequently ran for and secured the position of deputy political leader in the UNC’s internal elections, on March 24. She got 7,635 votes.

Coudray was yesterday reluctant to speak on the issue and said she was “confused” by Ramadhar’s statements.

Ramadhar, speaking at a press conference at the COP’s operations centre in Charlieville, Chaguanas, said the granting of the mayorship to the COP was a crucial part of the People’s Partnership five-party agreement, the Fyzabad Declaration.

The removal of that position from the assets of the COP is a betrayal of his party’s followers, Ramadhar said, and the COP will not allow itself to be pushed aside.

“That cannot be allowed to happen as such action would be unforgivable as it would be a betrayal of the trust of the hundreds of thousands of people who voted for the Partnership,” Ramadhar said.

He added: “The allocation of the mayorship of San Fernando to the COP was an essential element of the agreement that led to the coming together in other areas such as Tunapuna and Diego Martin.

“The issue, therefore, is really the attempt to take the mayorship of San Fernando and abandon the People’s Partnership by trampling on the Fyzabad Declaration. If this is not redressed, it could well mean the destruction of People’s Partnership and the dashing of the hopes of the nation. The COP will not be pushed aside and allow this hijack to take place.”

Ramadhar said this issue will take front place when the second coalition meeting, which will include its other members—the MSJ, the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP)—takes place tomorrow with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The COP has the backing of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), that party’s leader, Senator David Abdulah, said yesterday.

“If it is not addressed adequately we will be discussing nothing further as the very terms of our coming together would have been thrown out the window,” Ramadhar said.

“Should that happen the party will have to reconsider its relationship with the UNC.”

Ramadhar added: “We are however confident that the Prime Minister, as head of the Partnership and leader of the UNC, will recognise the principles involved and the gravity of the situation and act accordingly.”

In a brief telephone interview, Coudray said:

“I am confused about the statements being made by Mr Ramadhar. I, very simply, am asking for the COP to provide evidence that they elected me to the position of mayor.”

Asked to clarify which party elected her major, Coudray said: “I don’t want to comment on that. I want the COP to answer that question.”

Coudray said the law, while it made provisions for the removal of a mayor from office prior to the expiration of his or her three-year term, does not recognise the expectations outlined in the Fyzabad Declaration.

Abdulah, said yesterday: “There was an agreement in the lead-up to the local government elections, that if the Partnership won the San Fernando City Corporation, the mayorship would go to the COP. Marlene’s move to the UNC effectively broke that agreement. The MSJ supports the COP on this.”

 

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