THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis has explained why he asked for the resignation of three THA secretaries who did not seek re-election and were replaced, but not that of Councillor Kwesi DesVignes.
On Sunday, during a pre-recorded address, Dennis called on the secretaries to do “the right and proper thing,” but did not mention councillors.
On Monday, three secretaries – Jomo Pitt (Youth Affairs and Sports); Hayden Spencer (Food Production, Forestry, and Fisheries); and Kelvin Charles (Education, Innovation, and Energy) – resigned with immediate effect.
Questions were raised as to why DesVignes, who served as a councillor during the last dispensation and was Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment, was not asked to step down.
DesVignes contested the THA election as the PNM’s candidate for Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah, but lost.
Speaking with Newsday on Tuesday, Dennis said he never called on DesVignes to resign.
But he said he took two decisions "in the interest of good governance" and doing the right thing, and especially during "this very unprecedented period" – a six-six tie in the January 25 THA election. Since then the THA has been unable to agree on a new presiding officer.
One of Dennis's decisions was not to appoint any new secretaries or assistant secretaries; the other was to ask assemblymen who had not sought re-election to resign, though he said, “Legally, none of these persons had to resign. Legally, all those positions of secretary were preserved by the THA Act."
But, he added, "Obviously, that situation does not apply to Kwesi DesVignes, because he came in as a councillor." He pointed out that DesVignes was a councillor before the last THA was dissolved, and at present it is not possible to appoint any new councillors.
He added: “The question of him being unelected does not arise, as that was not the basis of my decision.”
DesVignes: I'll resign if asked to
DesVignes, questioned during a PNM press conference, said he would not have any difficulty in resigning if asked to do so.
“Some people are saying I should resign; some people are saying that I should not. The Chief Secretary has not called upon me to resign. However, it is a mature conversation that I am willing to have.
"For now I continue to serve, and I would be advised by the political leader and the chief secretary.
"If that changes, I would also consult with my family and persons close to me as to the best way forward,” he said.
In the meantime, he called upon people to respect office and respect the rule of law and not let their emotions get the better of them.
He declared, “People are being incited to do certain things and I want to say that threats have been issued to my family and even myself about this particular issue, and that is not the mature way to deal with it.”
ASked whether these threats had been reported to the police, he said, “Not as yet, they were fake profiles that were deleted,” in an apparent reference to threats issued via social media.