The Tobago Organisation of the People's (TOP) fourth Annual Party Conference came to a rowdy and abrupt end yesterday without a single vote being cast. The party is one of the coalition partners in the ruling People's Partnership.During the conference there were heated exchanges about the party's voting process and as tensions escalated, the media, who had been invited to attend the event, were asked to leave the conference room of the Rovanel's Resort where the conference was held.
TOP political leader Ashworth Jack later told reporters that several people at the conference felt that an election should not take place although there had been a High Court ruling giving the go-ahead to hold the election using the delegate voting system."There is a bunch of people who are adamant that the party should not have elections today," he said.
"I left the meeting and by the time I got back it was very rowdy, so I thought as the political leader of the party there was too much toing and froing, so I moved a motion for the conference be adjourned to a date to be fixed so that we can have some further discussions on the matter."The TOP leader said he considered the matter to be an indicator of a healthy democratic process.
"I hold no ill will or malice against anyone...I think in organisations there are going to be turbulent times so I accept that sometimes people are going to be passionate about stuff," he said."Democracy is alive and well and people must be allowed to express their views even if they do not agree with you."For me that is important. I encourage it in my family so any organisation that I am the head of must have the same kind of opportunity for expression."
The party's executive is expected to meet today at its headquarters in Scarborough to determine the way forward and set a new date for the internal election.On Friday, two members of the TOP filed an injunction in the High Court to stop the election.However, Justice Judith Jones yesterday ruled that the election of officers can continue as scheduled under the delegate voting system.
Attorney Om Lalla issued a pre-action protocol letter to TOP's general secretary Alicia Edwards on behalf of members Gladstone Solomon and Trevor Gardiner, seeking postponement of the election to allow for proper implementation of a one-man, one-vote system.Lalla's letter stated: "Should you fail to accede our request we will have no alternative but to seek legal redress from the High Court."
Commenting on the legal action, Jack said: "One of those two members only applied for membership about six months ago. When these things happen you have to revisit your screening process to ensure that those applying for membership are the best kinds of people for the organisation who have the organisation's best interest at heart."Solomon told the T&T Guardian that he and Gardiner filed the injunction because they felt the election was not keeping with the constitution.
Jack, in a media release, later reaffirmed the party's commitment to its membership to the one-man, one-vote system, which was agreed upon at the TOP's last annual conference, to ensure greater democracy in its governance."To this end, the party intends to vigorously defend the legal proceedings instituted by the two members. The party is being represented in these proceedings by attorney-at-law Michael Rooplal," the release said.
The court order handed down by Justice Jones stated:
1) The defendants, (TOP), are restrained from proceeding with the election of its executive arm scheduled for today (yesterday), save and except in accordance with the delegate system of voting prescribed by Article 16.01 of the constitution of the TOP and the convention adopted by it in this regard, until the determination of this action or further order.
2) The claimants undertake to file a claim form on June 23, 2013.
3) Permission is granted for the claimants to file and serve the statement of case by June 17.
4) The claimants undertake to serve filed copies of the interim applications together with the supporting affidavits of Gladstone Solomon and Trevor Gardiner on June 3.
It was also further ordered that the injunction be returned on June 6