January 03, 2001


Chronicle of a crisis

Extract: The Independent

This is the sequence of events which led up to the recent tension between the Prime Minister and President.

December 11: General election is held and the UNC emerges victorious with 19 seats. UNC walks off with the surprising five marginal constituencies. An unhappy PNM concedes defeat after it secured 16 seats and NAR narrowly took the Tobago East seat.

December 12: PNM writes President Arthur NR Robinson asking him to hold his hand on inviting anyone to form the next Government, until the outcome of a petition to the court challenging the nomination of successful UNC candidates Winston “Gypsy” Peters and William Chaitan. Peters and Chaitan wrongly swore that they held no allegiance to a foreign power when they filed their nominations papers on November 20. They were not qualified at the time because Gypsy was a citizen of the United States while Chaitan was a citizen of Canada.

December 14: President Arthur NR Robinson meets with former presidents Sir Ellis Clarke and Noor Hassanali to discuss the political scenario. The President has still not named a prime minister.

Robinson writes to Panday stating that protocol demands that a letter from the Elections and Boundaries Commission is sent to the President’s office confirming the election results, before the appointment or reappointment of a prime minster can be made.

December 15: Prime Minster Basdeo Panday hints at new election in the face of the PNM’s planned legal challenge.

More allegations from PNM about UNC stealing the elections with support from the EBC.

PNM still awaits the results of Tunapuna recount of ballots.

December 16: New protest in Tunapuna over ballots. Theodore Guerra, attorney for PNM candidate, Eddie Hart says that 2, 577 suspect ballots were found in unsealed envelopes. But the recount still put UNC candidate Mervyn Assam 333 votes ahead.

December 17: PNM declares it is ready for a new elections amidst allegations of voter padding by the UNC.

December 18: President Arthur NR Robinson addresses the nation declaring that no one could pressure him to prematurely appoint a prime minister. He said his position was clear and that he would only appoint a prime minister when the official election results is passed to him by the EBC.

The President also knocks Solicitor General Lynette Stephenson for offering advice on the appointment of a prime minister.

December 19: EBC sends results to the President. Basdeo Panday is sworn in as Prime Minister at President’s House.

December 20: Prime Minister Basdeo Panday holds a closed-door session at Whitehall with the 19 successful candidates and the losers, along with others who did not face the polls including Wade Mark, Gerald Yetming and Lindsay Gillette.

December 22: Cabinet confusion at swearing-in ceremony. The President walks away leaving nine unsworn members.

December 23: The President seeks legal advice on whether he should swear in Winston “Gypsy” Peters and Bill Chaitan as well as six defeated UNC candidates in the new term of the UNC administration.

December 27: The Prime Minister and President meet to discuss the appointments of Winston Peters and Bill Chaitan. They also discuss easing the tension arising from the political entanglements over further Cabinet appointments.

December 29: Prime Minister Basdeo Panday holds his first Cabinet meeting at Whitehall. Panday, at a news conference, expressed concern over the delay in the appointment of Roy Augustus as National Security Minister by the President.

December 30: The Prime Minister says the President is holding the country back by not going ahead with the appointments. Tension continue to rise between the PM and President.

December 31: President Robinson takes a stand and refuses to appoint losing UNC candidates, to government. The PNM sides with the President in his decision. The President writes to the Prime Minister outlining his position and the reason for his decision not to appoint losers as senators and ministers.

President Arthur NR Robinson refused to sign in UNC general election losers Dr Daphne Phillips who lost in Diego Martin West; Michael Als, Toco; Dr Vincent Lasse, Pt Fortin; Dr Roodal Moonilal, San Fernando East; Stanley Ryan, La Brea; Jennifer Jones Kernahan, Diego Martin Central; and Roy Augustus, Arouca North.

Prime Minister Basdeo Panday wants Augustus to be sworn in as National Security Minister.

According to the attorneys, Panday does not have too many legal options in dealing with President Robinson’s decision.

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