Friday 16th November, 2007

 

Bas made Opposition Leader

 
 
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By Gail Alexander

UNC leader Basdeo Panday went into the history books, again, yesterday when he became the first Opposition Leader to have his instruments of appointment conferred on him directly by the President.

And Panday assumed the mantle of Opposition Leader, vowing that he intended to die with his political boots on “Fighting for the welfare people of the T&T.”

At yesterday’s ceremony at President’s House, President George Maxwell Richards said convention had been that the instruments of appointment for the Opposition Leader were sent to Opposition Leader’s office.

However, Richards said he had thought it might be a welcome break in tradition—after talks with Panday—to present the instruments of appointment directly to Panday.

Richards said yesterday’s function was not a swearing-in ceremony.

He said Panday would take the oath of office on the first day of Parliament.

Government sources hinted on Tuesday that the ceremonial opening of Parliament might be on November 28 or 30.

This is the fifth time Panday will hold the post of Opposition Leader in his 40-year political career.

According to the Opposition office yesterday, he held the post while with the ULF, while he was at the helm of the newly-formed UNC, also from 1991-1995 and then from 2002 until 2006.

In the latter year, Panday was replaced as Opposition Leader by UNC MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar when he was convicted on an integrity charge. That ruling was subsequently quashed.

After the ceremony, Panday said he had no objection to going to President’s House for the occasion.

He said he was confused as to why Manning had refused to go to that location to be sworn in.

Panday also said the Opposition’s priorities involved constitutional reform.

“The fiasco that has been taking place in T&T for a long time indicates the need for constitutional reform,” he said.

“There are also the other problems confronting T&T, such as crime, high food prices and infrastructure and traffic gridlock.

“But then the country should expect that since a country gets the government it deserves.

“But, in this case, it may that they get the government they want since nobody deserves some of the problems here.”

Panday said the UNC would do its constitutional duty to do the best to its ability in the situation where the PNM had the majority.

He declined to say who would be named UNC Chief Whip or to confirm speculation that Maharaj would be.

He also remained mum on his choice of senators.

He said he didn’t want to dash anyone’s hopes or get anyone else’s up.

All from COP

welcome—Bas

On whether the COP would split the UNC’s vote in next year’s local government elections, Panday said: “My feeling is that people would not make that mistake for a second time.”

Asked whether he would take COP leader Winston Dookeran back into the party, Panday said: “Take him back? What you think? We were married and we were divorced or something?

“We’ve simply called upon people to unite,” he said.

“It’s necessary and the election results indicate that.

“It indicates the PNM is a minority government and had there been unity, the PNM today would have been in the Opposition.

“We will work with COP supporters to bring them back home...But people from their leadership, no.

“Anybody wants to come back home, we’re prepared to sit down and talk in the national interest.”

On his impending return to the Parliament— where he was blocked from entering only a few months ago—Panday added dryly:

“I just hope Mr Manning won’t think of something before the meeting of Parliament to have me blocked again.”

When asked if he wanted to retire undefeated at some point—as Prime Minister Patrick Manning had said recently he wanted— Panday said: “I will die with my boots on fighting for the welfare of the people of T&T, a task I have done for 40 years.”

Members of the UNC at President’s House yesterday included MPs Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and Mrs Lynette Maharaj, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Mrs Kamini Gopeesingh, Nizam Baksh, Vasant Bharath, Jack Warner, Subash Panday, Mickela Panday, Hamza Rafeeq, Chandresh Sharma, Harry Partap, Roodal Moonilal and Winston Peters.

Also present were prospective UNC senators, Wade Mark, Adesh Nanan, Jennifer Jones Kernahan, and UNC executive members Suruj Rambachan, Sylvester Ramquar, Daphne Phillips and Orlando Nagessar.

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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