Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Apr 26, 2006 – The daughter of the jailed former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago has been selected to succeed her father as Opposition leader. This as a High Court Judge moves up the bail hearing for Basdeo Panday by 24 hours.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar last evening received the majority vote from the 15 sitting Opposition MPs. Accordingly a letter signed by the MPs was delivered to President Maxwell Richards indicating their support together with a letter from Persad-Bissessar indicating her willingness to serve. There were originally 16 UNC members. Panday is in prison, two others (Fuad Khan and Gillian Lucky) had distanced themselves from the party but never resigned from the UNC while Gerry Yetming resigned but sits as an independent. UNC political leader, Winston Dookeran, did not attend the meeting. MPS Fuad Khan, Gillian Lucky, Ganga Singh , Manohar Ramsaran, and Gerald Yetming openly announced their support for Winston Dookeran.
The development came as some lawyers criticised the ruling of the President as too hasty. They say that the Constitution provides for the sea to be declared vacant after 30 days that the MP has not attended Parliament and the Speaker can extend that by 30-day periods for up to 150 days after which the House of Representatives must approve further extensions.
Other lawyers argue that the President was within his legal authority to declare the seat vacant because Panday was under a sentence of imprisonment exceeding 12 months.
Meantime, High Court Judge Anthony Carmona, has asked the lawyers to be back in Court this morning to hear the bail request for Basdeo Panday. The lawyers made an unsuccessful application yesterday morning but Justice Carmona initially said he needed time to study the application and that they should return to Court on thursday, however, he has moved up the hearing by one day – today.
The lawyers are arguing that: the magistrate had no jurisdiction to preside over the case, the Court exceeded its jurisdiction in the matter, Panday is not guilty, because the decision of the magistrate is unreasonable and/or cannot be supported having regard to the evidence, the decision is wrong in law and that the sentence imposed is unduly severe.
In their editorials today, Newsday called it “a sad day for our country” while the Guardian newspaper called for the divided UNC to unite and move on. The Trinidad Express says that the “UNC crisis” has grave implications for T&T. (Caribbean360)