Incumbent chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation Terry Rondon retained his title under controversial circumstances yesterday, as the corporation swore in its new executive.
United National Congress councillors and aldermen walked out of the ceremony after Rondon used his deciding vote as chairman, thus giving him two votes in the process, to break the 4-4 tie in the corporation between the UNC and the People's National Movement.
There were signs yesterday's proceeding would not go well from early on after Rondon entered the ceremony with the chairman's chain around his neck and proceeded to chair the proceedings instead of corporation CEO Angela Guerra.
UNC councillor Nirmal Singh objected on the ground that as an outgoing chairman, Rondon had to allow the CEO to take control of the proceeding. He was supported by councillor Kenwyn Phillip.
Singh questioned Rondon about his taking control of the ceremony and asked under what section of the Municipal Act he had the authority to do so. But Rondon said he had full authority under chapter 15 of the Municipal Act.
Rondon then called for the nomination of a presiding officer to take control, but UNC councillors again objected, saying this was the duty of the CEO.
UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen, who was present, then stood up and asked his councillors and aldermen to walk out, which they complied with.
However, the walk-out did not hinder the process as a chairman and vice chairmen and committees were then elected by the PNM representatives.
Speaking afterwards, Rondon said he was very disappointed at the walk-out by the UNC councillors and aldermen, noting he had spoken to them on the way forward for Sangre Grande. He promised to carry out his duties with dedication, adding he will be "working for all the people and not party."
He warned his new councillors to show respect for all people and forget the party politics.
"We are here to serve the people and this is what we must do," Rondon said.
Rondon said whatever the outcome of pending UNC action over yesterday's proceedings, he would "leave it in the hands of the Lord."
Also speaking on the issue of protocol, deputy PNM leader and Minister of Works and Transport, Rohan Sinanan, told T&T Guardian that the chairman remains the chairman and this was in the new Municipal Act.
"The old act was repealed sometime in 2013. Rondon was right when he quoted Section 15:2 of the Municipal Act," he said.
Minister in the Prime Minister Office Stewart Young also said the law was clear and Rondon acted under Section 67:2 of the Municipal Act, which gives him the right and privilege to preside and have the casting vote where there is a tie, as was the case in Sangre Grande. He said he was very dissatisfied at what he saw from the UNC.
"It seems that this is the mantra of the UNC - they walked out in Parliament and today they walked out in Sangre Grande," Young said, adding he would now wait to see how yesterday's walkout would affect the corporation's operations.