Expelled Independent Liberal Party (ILP) councillor Faaiq Mohammed yesterday gave the United National Congress (UNC) the deciding vote they needed to elect a new Chaguanas mayor and deputy mayor.At the end of the process, UNC alderman Gopaul Boodan, after years of service in a junior capacity, was finally elected mayor of the borough, while Felicity/Endeavour councillor Debideen Manick was elected as his deputy.
This effectively broke the deadlock that the corporation was left in on Wednesday when voting was prematurely suspended after confusion erupted among the councillors, when Mohammed voted with the UNC to elect Cunupia councillor Vandana Mohit presiding officer to oversee the proceedings then.
Yesterday, when the council was called to order at 2.40 pm, Mohit announced that based on legal advice, the motion to suspend Wednesday's session was "null and void" and election of a mayor and deputy mayor would continue as prescribed by law.She announced Boodan, ILP alderman Indrawatie Maraj and People's National Movement (PNM) Enterprise South councillor Ronald Heera as the nominees for Chaguanas mayor.Sealed ballots were then distributed to councillors to cast secret votes to elect the positions.
ILP councilors Falisha Isahak and Simeon Mahabir and Maraj began to complain. But Mohit called for silence in the chamber.The council chamber was packed, as politicians from all sides of the political divide, UNC, PNM and ILP, attended yesterday's session at the corporation's Success Street, Chaguanas, office.
PNM deputy political leader Colm Imbert, together with PNM chairman Franklin Khan, Camille Robinson-Regis and Joan Yuille-Williams, sat behind the PNM councillors, while Ministers Stephen Cadiz, Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, Ramona Ramdial and Devant Maharaj sat behind the UNC councillors.ILP leader Jack Warner and party chairman Robin Montano sat directly behind Mohammed, where they heckled him as the session was called to order.
When the counting of votes began, Heera was the first name to be called.This elicited cheers from the public gallery.As the votes were called out aloud it was clear by the tenth vote that Boodan had been elected mayor.However, on the eleventh ballot, councillor Mahabir's name was called, which surprised many.Mohit immediately rejected the ballot, prompting Mahabir to ask why the ballot was rejected."He was not a nominee for mayor," she said, as ripples of laughter erupted in the chamber.
She announced the final results–Boodan five votes, Heera four votes, Maraj two and one rejected.The UNC ministers, as well as Montano and Warner, loudly thumped the table as Boodan was announced as mayor.Manick was subsequently elected deputy mayor, receiving five votes. ILP councillors Isahak and Mahabir and Maraj opted not to participate in the secret ballot voting process.
Mohammed's vote also allowed the UNC to seize chairmanship of the Finance, Planning and Allocation, Personnel and Public Health Committees, after Isahak, Mahabir and Maraj again opted not to participate.Warner was heard telling Mohammed, "It good, it good for you. You want to vote."Mohammed ignored his former leader and kept to himself during the session. He did not speak to his former ILP colleagues either.
Isahak later nominated Mohammed for chairman of the Physical Infrastructure Committee, which surprised everyone gathered to witness the proceedings. Maraj seconded the nomination.PNM councillors nominated Enterprise South councillor Heera as chairman for the committee, but he was defeated five votes to four.
For each of the four voting sessions for chairmanship of the committees, the ILP councillors and alderman collected their ballots and immediately folded them without writing their votes in a form of continued protests.Outgoing mayor Orlando Nagessar, in his farewell speech, called on the councillors to put aside their bitterness and work together.
He said the time had come, however, for citizens to be given the chance to vote for their own mayor and deputy mayor. He suggested that nominees for the posts be included on the ballot paper along with the councillors.Khan said he was pleased yesterday's process ran smoothly. He said judging from the results, it was clear that contrary to rumours, the PNM did not engage in horse-trading nor was any deal struck between the party and the ILP.