T&T governing coalition for third set of peace talks

(Trinidad Guardian) Leaders of the People’s Partnership (PP) Government will meet for a third time next Wednesday to try and resolve simmering issues, Congress of the People general secretary Nirad Tewarie has said. The meeting takes place ahead of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s scheduled departure for Colombia later in the week. Tewarie gave an update on the situation yesterday, saying the COP was optimistic about resolution this time. He added: “I think we have national issues to deal with and the Prime Minister recently spoke on the value of compromise, so we are optimistic the various matters at hand can be worked out.” COP leader Prakash Ramadhar, who left T&T on Wednesday, for a three-week vacation in Ft Lauderdale is returning home next Tuesday for the meeting, Tewarie said. Ramadhar’s assistant said his vacation plans had been made since last year.

He had initially been scheduled to be out of the country from April 4 to 23. Meeting time for next week’s third leg of talks is midday. The venue will be the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, where the last two meetings took place on March 29 and April 2. Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah also said the third meeting would take place next week and that Ramadhar had promised to make himself available to return home for the session. Both the COP and MSJ spoke after UNC deputy leader Roodal Moonilal said yesterday the third set of discussions might have been as late as May, owing to Ramadhar’s absence.

The COP is particularly hopeful of a successful outcome to its call for the removal of San Fernando mayor Marlene Coudray. This issue has dominated the leaders’ meetings after Coudray defected from the COP to the UNC for that party’s internal election. The first two leadership meetings yielded no headway on that aspect. Tewarie yesterday declined comment on Moonilal’s call for the COP to “move past the contentious issues” and focus on Government business.

Yesterday, Information Minister Suruj Rambachan said Persad-Bissessar was scheduled to attend the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, from April 14-15. She is expected back by April  16.

Ahead of next Wednesday’s meeting, a senior UNC source said the possibility of elevating Coudray to Senate vice president is being mulled over by the UNC, along with another option, to make her a senator and junior minister. They said the issue of the senate vice-presidency was not firm yet but was a “definite possibility.” The present Senate vice president is Lyndira Oudit. A former UNC deputy leader, Oudit unsuccessfully contested the post of vice chairman in the UNC’s internal election. She was on the slate supported by party chairman Jack Warner as well as Fuad Khan and Herbert Volney. That slate lost to the slate of deputy leader Roodal Moonilal. Since Oudit lost the post of deputy leader, there has been growing speculation on whether she might be shifted from the Senate vice-presidency. Up to Tuesday, the UNC source noted, Oudit was in the spotlight when she was criticised by PNM senator Faris Al-Rawi for instructing the Senate clerk to go outside the chamber to summon ministers for a vote on a bill.


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