Roberts, who is also a Cabinet member with responsibility for Sports and is the Member of Parliament for D’Abadie/O’Meara told Newsday: “My leader has said if this is not dealt with at Thursday’s (today) meeting, first item on the agenda...he will discuss nothing else. I do not think Marlene Coudray is more important than crime, than the labour issue, than food production...than the corruption we have gotten rid of,” Roberts declared.
Speaking yesterday following the formal opening of a Health and Wellness Club (gym) on the ground floor of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure’s head office on Richmond Street in Port-of-Spain, Roberts said the Prime Minister does not have the legal authority to appoint or remove a mayor, as only elected councillors can do so.
Therefore the ultimatum by Ramadhar on Tuesday, Roberts said, would in effect be the equivalent of asking the Prime Minister to breach the law.
“So the ultimatum in itself makes absolutely no sense because if my leader is saying a prime minister can change a mayor and therefore breach the law, that is not the principle (by which) the Congress of the People operates on,” Roberts stated.
Roberts also spoke out quite strongly against the stance by Ramadhar and COP chairman Joseph Toney on Coudray’s defection from the COP to the UNC. “I don’t see the issue of one human being choosing to join another party in a partnership being so major as to cause the fracture of a government. We (People’s Partnership) came together and are doing fantastic things, the economy in the second quarter, is due to grow 1.7 percent.
“We have projects in energy coming through in the next three months. So for my leader to say he’s going to mash up the Government because one lady chose to go to another party...it baffles me,” Roberts revealed.
In fact, Roberts said the entire situation was Ramadhar’s fault because he (Ramadhar) sat on a committee which ultimately chose Coudray over fellow COP member Dr Navi Muradali (who is San Fernando’s deputy mayor).
“Marlene Coudray was selected by the Congress of the People to go forward as a mayor. Prakash Ramadhar was part of that committee, so if he chose someone who does not have the character to stick it out, then it’s his fault. He cannot blame someone else for his decision,” Roberts said.
Roberts said Ramadhar should have chosen to speak out instead on a proposal last year by Finance Minister and COP founder Winston Dookeran, to introduce some form of Property Tax. This, after the COP campaigned in the 2012 General Election on an “Axe The Tax” platform.
“How come my leader did not walk when a COP former leader (Dookeran) wanted to re- introduce the Property Tax, against the advice of Cabinet? I didn’t hear about him (Prakash) being prepared to walk then,” Roberts said.
In response last night, Ramadhar said: “ Well, Anil is Anil. It’s unfortunate what he has said but we live by certain values and principles. We believe what happened is a breach of the fundamentals of the Fyzabad agreement.”
Ramadhar said that with agreements reached for COP members not to contest any seat in the 2010 General Election against a UNC member, and vice versa, the COP was promised the mayorship of San Fernando.
“With these recent developments (San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray defecting from the COP to the UNC), we view this as a breach that must be rectified.”
Ramadhar warned that the Partnership’s survival hinges on the outcome of today’s partnership leaders’ meeting.
“This is about the long term survivability of the Partnership. The country expects from us honor, integrity, decency and confidence. It is about restoring these values. How can we go to the population and ask them to trust us, when we have these issues within the partnership?” Ramadhar asked.