PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Sept 10, CMC – Members of the Congress of the People (COP) have voted against a motion filed by its vice-chairman, Vernon De Lima, which sought to have the party leave the coalition People’s Partnership government if Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar failed to dismiss her National Security Minister Austin “Jack” Warner.
De Lima had tabled the motion at the party’s national council on Sunday but it was defeated by a 91-6 margin. He had also threatened to leave the party, the second biggest member of the four-party coalition, if he failed in his bid to get the senior minister out of the Cabinet.
The COP had been calling for Warner, who is also chairman of the United Nationals Congress (UNC), the biggest party in the coalition, to be removed and last week, the party said that that “Mr Warner should have stepped aside from his Ministerial position until the investigations into the matter were concluded and decisions had been made as to his role in the matter and culpability or otherwise”.
FIFA accused Warner and the former head of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, of offering bribes to Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials during a meeting in Trinidad in May last year for votes during the campaign for the FIFA’s presidential elections.
Warner resigned his post as FIFA vice-president and Bin Hammam dropped out of the race for FIFA president and was banned by FIFA for life. Bin Hammam appealed the decision, which the Court of Arbitration (CAS) annulled.
The CAS judgment also cast Warner in a negative light, which De Lima used in his motion as a ground for his removal from the government.
But COP Leader and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar said despite the defeat of the motion, De Lima, an attorney, remains a “treasured member” of the party.
“The motion having been defeated, he (De Lima) made public pronouncements. Unfortunately he had an emergency and he had to leave before I had a chance to chat with him to know what would be his position now that the motion vote has been against him,” he said.
Ramadhar said while no disciplinary action would be brought against De Lima for filing a private motion under the party’s name, the internal party election is on October 28 and De Lima’s vice-chairmanship position would be put to a vote.
“I think that discipline comes in many forms and there are internal elections coming up next month and people will exercise their own level of discipline. We think the moral strength of the argument is strong and as such we expect the Prime Minister to act in accordance with what is best for Trinidad and Tobago.
“We have also asked in that motion for the police to conclude as speedily as is possible any criminal investigations in relation to that Minister. So we can have a final resolution in relation to any criminal charges or not on this. It is fair to all to have a final and quick determination on this issue,” Ramadhar told reporters.
“I have to take responsibility for the party and when the party did not authorise a motion and it was put in the public space as a COP motion… It was Mr De Lima’s motion and we had to set that record clear.”
Ramadhar ended all speculation that the COP would leave the coalition government that came to power in May 2010 as a five party grouping, but lost one member – the Movement for social Justice – which criticised the government over its policies.
“We are staying because we promised the people of Trinidad and Tobago certain things which we have not yet delivered on and which we are working on delivering. It would be an abdication of that trust that they gave to all of us, especially the COP.”
Ramadhar said he was voted in for five years and will not “destabilise” the country by threatening to leave pending Warner’s Cabinet position.
“We have to appreciate that the government was voted in by a majority of persons, we have to respect that and we will not abdicate our responsibility to the population any time before that period,” he said.