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PP, PNM political punches begin
Even before Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley landed the first political punch in his parliamentary attempt yesterday to remove Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, the PP Government manoeuvred a first strike. They sought to have Rowley hauled before Parliament’s Privileges Committee on an issue concerning Senate President, Timothy Hamel-Smith.
Yesterday’s trade-off of political blows—initially expected to have only been Rowley’s motion of censure against Ramlogan—was one Lower House session for which Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar arrived particularly early. The PM listened intently as Rowley built his case for removal of her AG over the controversial Section 34 issue. Energetically, Persad-Bissessar rose twice to defend herself and her ministers from broad-brush swipes.
Persad-Bissessar’s interventions and the large show of support put on by UNC members outside the Parliament were understandable reactions considering the widespread criticism Government has earned on the Section 34 matter, the import of Rowley’s motion, and the significance of the office of the Attorney General.
If the expected marathon debate ended with the motion being passed, Ramlogan would have “to go” and Rowley’s verbal onslaught yesterday pursued various angles of the Section 34 issue as he called on MPs to “connect the dots” in the matter.
UNC MP Herbert Volney, who was fired for the issue, turned full attention to Rowley as he waded into Government on who was responsible. PP sources said there was some “nervousness” about what Volney might say in debate considering his recent sharp statements and stated intention to “shed light” on the issue.
While Rowley’s motion may fail due to the PP’s majority House numbers—even if Volney supports the motion or abstains—Rowley will have the final word on the issue in his address at tomorrow’s PNM convention and when he joins unions’ protest march next week.
PNM’s executive elections, part of the PNM Convention, has seen some nominees—from those seeking the Female Youth Officer’s post to Elections Officer—having to fend off perceptions they are part of a “Rowley slate” designed to strengthen his standing. San Fernando East secretary, Abigail Cox, also had to deny rumours of a “Manning slate” after former officials sought posts.
Manning, expected back in Parliament by the end of January after extending his sick leave, is continuing therapy, his family said yesterday.
One time chairman, Conrad Enill, seeking the Education Officer’s post, officially summed up the election thus: “It’s not a contest. PNM is just trying to get the best choices and it will.” Focus is on the fight for Lady Vice Chairman between incumbent Donna Cox and Senator Penny Beckles. Cox has stressed, along with her accomplishments, “loyalty to party and leader” while Beckles says her focus is on stronger Women’s League leadership.
Moreover, following the dissolution of the PNM-controlled Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on Thursday, the Convention spotlight will also fall on THA head and Tobago PNM leader, Orville London, who dissolved the THA a few months ahead of its full term, at a time of fluctuating PP stocks and a rising PNM platform.
THA’s elections starts the 2013 mid-term mark heading to Local Government polls in July, and the 2015 general election as well as UNC leadership polls in February and election of a President in March. Meanwhile, results from COP’s executive election—also being held tomorrow—will be collated from the 22 polling stations by 8 pm, COP communications secretary Dr Omar Ali said.
Thursday’s debate among COP candidates saw a mix on offer, from status quo to a cross section of Young Turks interested in strengthening the party’s faltering status.
COP’s election will attest to whether (or not) party members are content with the way the Joseph Toney-led executive has handled matters and will indicate the measure of membership satisfaction concerning the 14-month tenure of political leader, Prakash Ramadhar, with whom the Toney administration has worked closely.
Along with the power of incumbency, Toney may have some advantage in the leader’s corner, but this will have to be balanced with the handling of recent coalition tensions.
Several nominees,MP Carolyn Seepersad- Bachan, Satu Ramcharan and others, who have been vocal on party issues including coalition matters, have all called for strengthening COP, an indictment not only of Toney’s administration but also, indirectly, Ramadhar’s tenure. The new executive will serve until the end of Ramadhar’s term in July 2014 and for three months after.
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