Senate six fate in question

UNC Senator Faisal Rahman, 70, a Basdeo Panday loyalist, yesterday revealed that he has offered to resign, making his appearance at tomorrow’s sitting of the Senate possibly his last. His offer of resignation comes ahead of crucial talks carded to take place over the coming week on the issue of appointments to the Senate and to a planned Opposition shadow-cabinet.

Persad-Bissessar will tomorrow take firmer hold of the reins of the party at an emergency meeting of its Parliamentary caucus at Rienzi Complex, Couva, in the wake of achieving the requisite support needed to become Opposition Leader on Saturday. The meeting will see key discussions over the issue of appointments take place.

In the wake of Rahman’s offer of resignation, Persad- Bissessar yesterday said she was confident that any changes in the Senate line-up will be dealt with before next week.

“We have an entire week,” she said in an interview. “Those matters will be dealt with. We have enough personnel, talent and resources within the party should it be that changes in the senate line-up are to occur. For now, though, it is premature to discuss this as consultation is to take place.”

Under the Constitution, the Opposition Leader appoints six senators. The current senators who were previously appointed by Panday and who now face the axe are: Senate Minority Leader Wade Mark, Senator Adesh Nanan, Senator Jennifer Jones- Kernaham, Rahman, Senator Sharon Ann Gopaul Mc Nicols. Former senator Lyndira Oudit, a member of the Persad-Bissessar UNC executive had her appointment revoked by Panday two Fridays ago. In her stead, Panday appointed a representative of the Public Services Association, Christopher Joefield, to act as a temporary senator.

“As a Senator appointed by your predecessor, and in deference to your authority, I hereby offer you my resignation in your capacity as the new incumbent now responsible for such appointments,” Rahman wrote in a private email sent to Persad-Bissessar on Saturday, hours after Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh gave her the crucial backing she needed to assume the post of Opposition Leader.

“Should you see fit to accept this offer, I shall bow to your authority. Should you feel otherwise, I remain happy to serve as before. I await your instructions,” he added.

Newsday understands that in response to Rahman’s offer, Persad-Bissessar despatched an email to Rahman yesterday afternoon, informing him that while his offer of resignation was “premature”, it will be given “due consideration”.

“I respectfully acknowledge your offer of resignation of February 20th 2010,” she wrote. “I wish to take the opportunity to thank you for your dedication in service to party and country as a Senator. It is my respectful view that your offer is premature since I am not the officially appointed Opposition Leader. However, when that position changes, due consideration would be given to your offer,” she said.

“The recent mandate of our membership and indeed the larger expectations and demands of the nation at this time require our party to carefully assess the way forward. In this regard, I intend to consult with our colleagues,” she added before signing-off the email, “Regards, Kamla.”

Yesterday Rahman said he took the decision to offer his resignation in order to avoid the “embarrassment” of Persad-Bissessar having to fire him. “The Opposition Leader has been changed,” he said. “The new one has to have the option of keeping or changing the guard and if she wants to change it is embarrassing to have to fire. So I have done what I considered to be the honourable thing. I have simply acted in accordance with my conscience.”

At the same time, Rahman, who has debated 50 bills, 16 motions and served on three Parliament committees, said he was not unwilling to continue to serve as a senator. “I’ve served for two years and had a wonderful time and I would like to continue. However, I will step aside if she is not pleased with my performance or has someone better to replace me.” Rahman said he will “say a few words” in tomorrow’s debate of a private motion on climate change.

Yesterday Rahman’s colleagues in the Senate, who were appointed by Panday but will now depend on Persad- Bissessar’s support to maintain their posts, were cautious in the wake of his resignation.

“The appointment of anyone to the Senate falls within the purview of the Leader of the Opposition,” Senate Minority Leader Wade Mark said. “We have a political leader and, based on all that has transpired, soon to be Leader of the Opposition. When that individual assumes office they will have the same prerogative as the outgoing leader.”

“I’ve always made myself available for public service to the country and the people of this nation,” he added, noting that he remains willing, “to serve in whatever capacity.”

Senator Adesh Nanan, said, “I await my fate. I have to consider my options. I continue to support the party but I was appointed by Mr Panday so I will have to wait to take a decision, even if that involves being fired from the Senate before I do.”

Senator Jennifer Jones-Kernaham, who along with Mark was spotted at Persad-Bissessar’s inauguration last month at Rienzi Complex, said, “If we have a new Opposition Leader it is now up to her to make those decisions entirely.” She added, “I haven’t thought about resigning. I will remain for now. I was called to serve by Mr Panday because he thought I would have a contribution to make. But now it is up to the new Opposition Leader.”

Senator Sharon-Ann Gopaul Mc Nicol, who was due to return to the country from a trip to Florida last night, could not be reached for comment.

Former senator Lyndira Ouditt, said she remains willing to serve. “I am willing to serve in the Senate. I’ve always felt it was a serious responsibility. I tried to the best of my ability it will be an honour if I am asked again.”

Rahman’s offer of resignation comes ahead of an emergency meeting of UNC MPs carded to take place at the Rienzi Complex tomorrow at 2.30pm. At the meeting, which had been originally carded for today, discussions are to take place on the way forward in the wake of Persad-Bissessar achieving the backing necessary to be appointed Opposition Leader.

In her email to Rahman, Persad Bissessar also noted that the meeting will be followed by a meeting of the party’s Parliamentary caucus which comprises both MPs and Senators, and then a meeting of the national executive. The UNC’s Parliamentary caucus normally meets on Wednesday, but the meeting has been pulled forward because the Parliament will sit on that day for the Opposition’s Private Members’ Day. Panday has already indicated he will not attend the meetings.

Panday yesterday praised Rahman’s skills as a senator. “He was well received; a well-respected orator and writer,” he said. Panday yesterday did not attend a meeting that had been carded to take place at the home of Couva South MP Kelvin Ramnath’s home in Palmiste, south Trinidad. Instead, he was tipped to have made preparations to clear out of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.


"Senate six fate in question"

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