OPPOSITION UNC MPs on Sunday denied there was any rift in the party over three of its members not voting for UNC presidential nominee Israel Khan, SC, in the Electoral College on January 20.
They also rejected a social media post which alleged there was a move within the party to remove UNC political leader and Siparia MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar as Opposition Leader.
The post claimed Oropouche East MP and UNC deputy leader Dr Roodal Moonilal got the signatures of eight opposition MPs and six opposition senators on a letter to send to President Paula-Mae Weekes saying they had lost confidence in Persad-Bissessar as Opposition Leader.
According to Section 83 of the Constitution, only elected opposition MPs can remove an Opposition Leader from office.
Section 83 (4) states, "Where in the judgment of the President, the Leader of the Opposition is no longer the member of the House of Representatives best able to command the support of a majority of those members of the House of Representatives who do not support the Government, the President shall revoke the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition."
The Opposition has 19 MPs in the House of Representatives. At least ten of them would have to express their non-support for Persad-Bissessar in writing to the President for her appointment as Opposition Leader to be revoked.
Section 82 (3) identifies the Opposition Leader as "the member of the House of Representatives who, in his (President's) judgment, is best able to command the support of the greatest number of members of the House of Representatives who do not support the Government.
Responding to claims of a rift in the UNC, Moonilal said, "I don't comment on PNM propaganda."
He was equally dismissive of the social media post alleging he was trying to remove Persad-Bissessar as opposition leader.
"Only spineless people fall for such imbecilic narrative. But I am flattered that people have me so intimately and obsessively in their thoughts. In fact, they are the only ones who think about me."
UNC chairman and Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo said, "This is rubbish."
He was baffled about why the media was persisting with the belief of an alleged rift in the UNC, after the party held a news conference earlier in the day at the Opposition Leader's Office in Port of Spain on more important matters.
Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe said, "No rift in the UNC. The party remains united and strong."
At the news conference, Naparima MP Rodney Charles also dismissed claims of a rift in the party because three of its parliamentarians did not vote for Khan.
Referring to Persad-Bissessar's comments after the Electoral College meeting, Charles said the UNC "is an open tent where, if there are different views, they contend in the marketplace of ideas."
He added, "There is democracy in the UNC. That incident (the three spoilt ballots) notwithstanding, the UNC remains strong and resolute as one of the last remaining bulwarks against our steady decline into dictatorship."
Charles claimed TT's democracy cannot depend on independent senators Paul Richards, Dr Varma Deyalsingh, Anthony Vieira, Amrita Deonarine, Dr Maria Dillon-Remy, Hazel Thompson-Ahye, Deorop Teemul and Evans Welch.
The Electoral College voted 48-22 in favour of former Senate president Christine Kangaloo being elected to serve as TT’s seventh President.
The college comprises all members of the House and Senate, including the Speaker and the Senate President.
The vote for Kanglaoo comprised 39 government members (including Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George and Senate President Nigel De Freitas) and nine independent senators.
The vote from the Opposition in support of Khan was 22, three short of the UNC’s full parliamentary membership in the House and Senate.
Charles hoped all nine Kangaloo would reappoint all the independent senators when she assumes office as President on March 21.
"They do verily deserve it."
Two other UNC parliamentarians, speaking on condition of anonymity, also rejected claims of a rift in the party and a plan to remove Persad-Bissessar as opposition leader.
The first said, "I don't comment on rubbish."
The second said, "Don't give it too much thought (alleged rift in the UNC). This (social media post) is the Facebook equivalent of a tabloid run by PNM and UNC sourpusses."
On Saturday, PNM MPs Faris Al-Rawi, Colm Imbert and Fitzgerald Hinds all claimed that a palace coup had taken place in the UNC in the aftermath of three of its members not supporting Khan's nomination.