Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was yesterday advised to resign as United National Congress (UNC) political leader, hours before the party held a congress at Shiva Boys’ Hindu College in Penal to determine whether she should stand for re-election later this month.
This ‘free legal advice’ was offered by Israel Khan, SC, in an open letter to Persad-Bissessar. Khan told Persad-Bissessar she could ignore his advice, “and listen to the sycophants within your party who tell you what they believe you want to hear in order to hold on to status and position, so they can ‘eat ah food’.”
He said if Persad-Bissessar did not resign before her election to that post, her election would be ultra vires the UNC Constitution and thus illegal. Under the UNC’s constitution, the political leader holds office for three years unless he or she resigns or is removed from office. Persad-Bissessar was first elected UNC leader in January 2010 and was re-elected after the September 2015 general elections.
Khan also said Section 83 (2) of the Constitution would not affect Persad-Bissessar’s position as Opposition Leader if her post as UNC leader became vacant for a few days to facilitate her re-election. Section 83 (2) states the President will appoint the member of the House of Representatives who commands the majority of the support of members opposed to the Government as Opposition Leader.
Khan warned Persad-Bissessar that if she fails to resign before the party’s elections next, “You will be sending the wrong signal to the floating voters on the East-West corridor and other marginal areas.” He said that signal would be that Persad-Bissessar is more concerned with consolidating her position as UNC leader and Opposition leader rather than obeying the UNC’s constitution.
Khan told Persad-Bissessar, “If you are prepared to breach your party’s constitution then you cannot be trusted to head a cabinet which will adhere to the spirit and rule of law of the Constitution of TT.” He also advised her to flush out any UNC MPs who are allegedly secretly supporting former minister Vasant Bharath to become UNC leader and possibly Opposition leader. Khan said if this is true, Persad-Bissessar must, “deal with these traitors decisively and effectively.”
Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh has questioned whether Persad-Bissessar is in breach of the UNC’s constitution by seeking re-election ahead of time. Attorney Douglas Bayley wrote to Singh on behalf of the party, indicating there was nothing wrong in Persad-Bissessar’s seeking an early re-election. UNC founder and former leader Basdeo Panday has also criticised Persad-Bissessar saying she is breaching the UNC’s constitution.