Sunday, February 18, 2018

COP leader: We're not leaving Govt

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Prakash Ramadhar, political leader of the Congress of the People (COP)

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Prakash Ramadhar, political leader of the Congress of the People (COP), has taken in front, indicating yesterday that the party will not be leaving the ruling People's Partnership even as National Security Minister Jack Warner continues to function as a senior Cabinet Minister.

Ramadhar made it clear that since Warner has refused to step down, only the Prime Minister can take action against him, not the COP.

Ramadhar's statement comes on the heels of public disclosure of a motion filed by COP vice-chairman Vernon De Lima which contains an ultimatum calling on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to remove Warner from her Cabinet or else the COP will distance itself from the Partnership.

But Warner lashed out at De Lima last night, saying that on Sunday, when the COP is scheduled to debate De LIma's motion, he will have the last laugh.

"I would much prefer to be the first person to comment on Sunday about the level of foolishness that comes from one who professes to be a lawyer of repute," said Warner.

He claimed that De Lima has a personal grouse against him as he (De Lima) was rejected as a candidate for National Security Minister.

"Yes, De Lima wanted to be the Minister of National Security and was rejected outright and since then he has continued to be rejected, he is a failure in his own party and on Sunday I will tell the nation that his only claim to fame was when he got silk and that was when this Government came into office," said Warner.

De Lima cited Warner's involvement in FIFA bribery scandals as a bone of contention, as well as a recent report from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which cast Warner in a negative light.

Ramadhar's release stated that De Lima's motion will be debated Sunday at the party's national council meeting at COP Operations Centre, Chaguanas, "in the interest of democracy".

While De Lima's motion speaks specifically to parting ways with the Partnership should the National Security Minister not be fired, Ramadhar stated yesterday that the COP will not be walking.

Ramadhar explained that when Warner first became embroiled in FIFA controversy, the COP national executive met, deliberated the issue and had taken an official position which remains the same to date.

"The COP stated then, and continues to hold, 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," said Ramadhar.

He stated that there was "no new situation" concerning Warner that has arisen since the COP first expressed its position on it.

"The COP's position remains that Mr Warner should step down from Ministerial responsibility until investigations are concluded," stated Ramadhar.

He reiterated that the Prime Minister has the power to fire Warner.

"The COP is also clear that Mr Warner's refusal to remove himself from Ministerial positions puts the question of whether he should be removed as a Minister in the hands of the Political Leader of his party and Prime Minister and not the COP," stated Ramadhar.

"Therefore the issue of leaving the Partnership simply does not arise, especially in light of the fact that the Party pronounced on this just a few months ago at the April meeting of the National Council," he added.

Contacted yesterday, De Lima said that he leaves it for the members of the COP to decide.

"Everybody should discuss the matter and come out on Sunday and share their views."

He said his position against Warner remains the same, adding that this was not any personal grouse but a national issue.

Questioned on Warner's claim that De Lima's discontent against him stemmed from the fact that he (De Lima) was rejected for the post of National Security Minister, De Lima said he did not even know that the COP had put forward his name as a candidate for the job which former National Security minister Brigadier John Sandy bagged.