TUCO faces legal action over presidency: 'King Luta' goes to court

In this file photo, Morel
In this file photo, Morel "Luta" Peters singing Sin is Sin -

CALYPSONIAN Morel Peters, also called King Luta, wants a by-election held for the post of president of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO).

On Tuesday, the veteran calypsonian's attorney Peter Taylor filed a lawsuit seeking to compel TUCO to hold a by-election. It also asks for a declaration that the elevation of former vice-president Ainsley King to the presidency is illegal.

The matter has been assigned to Justice Kevin Ramcharan and will be heard on January 6.

In his application, Peters said there has been a “steadfast refusal” by TUCO’s executive to hold a by-election in accordance with article 9(j) of the governing body’s constitution, which provides where a vacancy arises for the post of president, the vice-president is elected interim president until the by-election is held within three months.

He said the vacancy arose when president Lutalo “Brother Resistance” died on July 13, and the by-election should have been held by October 12.

The 71-year-old calypsonian said King was elected interim president days after Masimba died. But, he said, at a subsequent meeting, a motion was moved to rescind King’s elevation as interim president and elevate him to president.

This motion was seconded and approved by 14 members in favour, with two abstentions.

Another motion was then moved to appoint King as TUCO’s representative on the National Carnival Commission (NCC) board.

These decisions, Peters contends, are illegal since they are contrary to TUCO’s constitution.

He also said TUCO’s general secretary, Shirlaine Hendrickson, told him the general council had decided to postpone the by-election until further notice.

In October, Peters's attorney sent TUCO a pre-action protocol letter calling on the executive to hold the by-election immediately, and complained of King’s elevation to president. Taylor said Article 13(2) of the Constitution rules a president shall be elected by secret ballot only.

He maintained that while the general council had the power to fill a vacancy by show of hands or by secret ballot, that provision was “a temporary or stop-gap measure to ensure continuity in the organisation upon the sudden or untimely death or resignation of a member.”

The attorney insisted it could not supersede the provisions of Article 13 (2) on the election of a president to the substantive post.

“There are very good reasons for this since the president is also president of the administrative executive and whose position is full time.”

Taylor said the functions of a president included presiding at all TUCO meetings, except zonal meetings; responsibility for the proper conduct of business at meetings; appointing committees and being an ex-officio member of all committees; transacting all business pertaining to the office; and being the chief negotiator, initiator and motivating instrument in advancing the organisation.

The president also has the power to appoint clerical and other staff and to fix salaries and, with members of the executive, is charged with discussing complaints lodged by anyone over the conduct of members of the organisation, Taylor added.

“The president’s responsibilities and powers are therefore both wide-ranging and far-reaching and his election ought to be secured by broad consensus as contemplated by Article 13 (2).

“Your purported bye-election for the position of vice president instead of president is therefore unconstitutional and is an attempt to ‘install’ Mr Ainsley King in the office of the president rather than seeking a clear mandate from the broad voting membership of TUCO,” said the letter, which was addressed to the general secretary.

At the time, King dismissed the allegations as sour grapes. He said he didn’t “assume the position,” but the issue was left in the hands of the general council, which had the power to do what it did when it moved a motion to appoint him.

He said this was not a new occurrence, since it had been done on at least three previous occasions and nobody questioned it.

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