PM to face no-confidence vote

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago: The main opposition United National Congress (UNC) says it plans to file a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Patrick Manning as the controversy continues over the decision by a state company to use the courts to stall the Commission of Enquiry into the operations of the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDECOTT).

UNC chairman, Vasant Bharath, said Manning must dismiss the entire UDECOTT board after the High Court ruled last weekend that the commission, chaired by Professor John Uff of Britain, would stop its work until February 2010.

The court ruling came despite a statement in Parliament by Attorney General John Jeremie that the proceedings of the commission would not be stayed.

Jeremie said he met with the lawyers for the state-owned company “for the purpose of ensuring that their claim did not proceed in the manner in which it was crafted against the state, as a direct attack against the State and against certain actions of the President”.

Wade Mark, Leader of the Opposition Business in the Senate, said Manning has an obligation to ensure that there is proper accountability at the level of the state enterprises. Another Opposition legislator, Dr. Tim Gopeesingh, said the party is preparing to table a motion of no confidence in Manning.

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said that he was prepared to initiate legal action against Manning for abandoning the interests of the public.

“I have a duty and I will discharge my duty, and Prime Minister Patrick Manning knows that I am not afraid to discharge my duty, and the Attorney General should know that I know the functions of an attorney general. I may not be as good as him, but I know the functions of an attorney general.

“This is not an issue that people should be afraid of. People have a duty to fight. This is billions of dollars being stolen from the pockets of the poor people in this country, who need that money for pension, healthcare and everything else. This is injustice,” Maharaj said.

Maharaj said he was also demanding that Jeremie instruct UDECOTT to withdraw its application for judicial review into the proceedings of the commission.

“I would await the response and action of the government. They have a duty to do that, and if they do not do that, then you would hear what I would do, but I am giving them the opportunity to (do it). I shall take every step to protect the public interest in this matter if the Prime Minister and the Attorney General continue to ignore the public interest,” Maharaj said.

However, Victor Hart, head of the local branch of Transparency International, has described the ongoing controversy as “ridiculous”.

“What was promised to be the most professional and transparent enquiry ever held in the country has degenerated into a farce,” said Hart.

Hart said he was puzzled that Cabinet instructed the line ministers for the Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) and the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) to withdraw petitions before the Industrial Court to decertify two trade unions last week, but has not done so for UDECOTT.

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