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PNM call for march fails to get popular support
Former Congress of the People vice-chairman Vernon de Lima and National Trade Union Centre members are expected to join today’s Opposition march which will call for the resignations of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Justice Minister Herbert Volney. The protest march will underscore PNM concerns about the recent issue of the controversial Clause 34, which was repealed in emergency sittings of Parliament last week. PNMites in the Upper and Lower Houses supported the repeal. Subsequently, last Sunday, PNM leader Keith Rowley said the Opposition was still concerned about the “secret” proclamation of the clause on August 31. Rowley said the PNM planned to circulate a petition on it, which members would take on today’s march to President’s House. He called for those affected or angered by the issue to join, including trade unions. Yesterday, PNM vice chairman Camille Robinson-Regis said the PNM applied early yesterday for police permission for the march. The party was still awaiting approval up to 5 pm yesterday. Police officials confirmed receiving the application. Robinson-Regis said: “ We believe we’ll get permission since the route isn’t a convoluted route,” she added. PNM chairman Franklin Khan said the PNM’s objective was the resignation of Ramlogan and Volney, who he said were key in the issue. Ramlogan lead last week’s debate. Volney had said he moved to obtain proclamation of the clause.
Khan said the PNM voted for repeal of the clause since that was the only option for Parliament. But he said throughout last week’s debate PNM members expressed concern about the “secret” proclamation of the section. COP’s de Lima, an attorney, said he had to attend a case in San Fernando this morning. “But once I return to north in time, I shall be most present at the march,” De Lima said. COP public relations officer Mahendra Dhaniram said he was unsure if other COP members were attending. He said he suspected the party would discuss the Clause 34 issue, among others, at its executive meeting. Former coalition partner, the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) was discussing its participation at a meeting last evening, MSJ leader David Abdulah said. Natuc president Michael Annisette - a former Independent Senator—who said the recent Parliament debate did not address the reason for the haste in proclaiming section 34 said: “NATUC wishes to reiterate our principled position of maintaining our independence as the majority recognised Trade Union Federation by not aligning itself to any political party or responding to any calls by any political party, which may be construed as alignment to a political party.” “However, NATUC respects the rights of its members to respond to any calls by any political party. This stance is taken with the clear understanding that NATUC represents trade unions and its members across the political divide.”
Annisette said Natuc wanted Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to deal with the matter urgently to restore public confidence and faith in the Parliamentary process and “take appropriate action against those found wanting.” Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union’s Vincent Cabrera said while he personally supported the idea of the march, his comrades said Rowley hadn’t consulted with them and the invitation issued by Rowley last Sunday was too short to organise members’ participation. The march begins at 1 pm outside the Red House on Abercromby Street. Participants will walk north up Abercromby Street, into Gordon Street, Keate Street and around NAPA onto the Queen’s Park Savannah and then to President’s House. Khan said the petition will be submittted and Rowley will address marchers there. PNM constituencies were mobilising to participate, several units confirmed. This included MP Patrick Manning’s San Fernando East constituency. Abigail Cox of that unit’s office said members will participate. Government communication Minister Jamal Mohammed said of the PNM’s move, “We understand they’re planning a strong showing in support of their leader, but the PNM is simply doing this to provoke a reaction. “They supported repeal of the legislation. But people have the freedom to lodge their protest as they may within the law. It’ s a democratic country.”
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