San Fernando mayor Marlene Coudray remains untouchable. The Congress of the People (COP) yesterday lost the battle for the mayorship of San Fernando City Corporation. After four hours of talks at the fourth meeting of coalition leaders at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's yesterday, the party backed down on its demand for her removal, and is now considering "a number of options." COP leader Prakash Ramadhar was fighting for his partnership colleagues to honour a "gentleman's agreement," which formed part of the Fyzabad Declaration, giving a COP representative the position of mayor in the San Fernando City Corporation.
Reading from a prepared statement agreed to by all leaders, Ramadhar said: "Given the circumstances of the change in party allegiance by Ms Marlene Coudray, the Congress of the People no longer has that position of responsibility." He added that the most appropriate resolution of the COP's loss of a position of responsibility would be the allocation of another such position. However, owing to time constraints, no such appropriate option was decided yesterday. The COP leader indirectly criticised Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for not having the political will to resolve the issue, saying, "It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to settle this matter. "The matter of the Mayor of San Fernando is a political one," he insisted. "Forget all the legalism and legalese that have been put before us. It is a political one.
"It really, at the end of it all is a matter of political will and determination of those who care about the country," a visibly annoyed Ramadhar told reporters. On Wednesday, Coudray said that according to Local Government Act 21, one way a mayor can be removed is if three-quarters of the council pass a motion of no confidence in him or her. But her former leader dismissed her statement, saying her position is not an "earned right." He pointed out that a mayor is chosen by the vote of councillors who are directed by their parties. It is not, he noted, a position that one "goes out and works on the ground for, by gaining the votes of the people." In the presence of Tobago Organisation of the People leader Ashworth Jack and MSJ leader Senator David Abdullah, Ramadhar expressed grave concern about the potential of this issue to endanger the country and the Government.
Ramadhar, who cut short a family vacation in the US to return for the meeting said, "Where the future of our country and our partnership may be jeopardised, I ask how could anyone in honour hold on to the office they did not gain by work? "I can tell you what my position would be if there was harm to my country, I would be the first to stand down and allow things to go forward." Asked by reporters if he felt Coudray was harming the country, he said, "absolutely," adding that it was a matter for her conscience. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar left the meeting midway through to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting. It was the second leadership meeting in two days that she had left early.
She waved to members of the media on her departure, saying only that the other leaders would provide a statement.
Ramadhar has convened a special National Council meeting of the COP on April 29 to discuss the options available to the party. Ramadhar left immediately for the airport to return to his family vacation in the US and is expected to return on April 22. Persad-Bissessar flew out at 5.15 pm yesterday for the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia and will return next Wednesday. Her departure put on hold for at least two weeks any further discussion to resolve what has proven to be a very contentious issue.