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Robinson seeking legal advice

December 24, 2000
Extract Express

PRESIDENT Arthur NR Robinson is seeking legal advice on whether he should swear in Winston “Gypsy” Peters and Bill Chaitan, as well as six defeated candidates, as Ministers in the new term of the United National Congress (UNC) Administration.

This was why he did not perform the honours at Friday’s swearing in ceremony at President’s House informed sources told the Sunday Express yesterday.

Robinson swore in 15 Ministers who comprised 13 elected representatives and two non-elected, Gerald Yetming and Lindsay Gillette, before he indicated he had finished his task.

He did not swear in Peters and Chaitan the respective elected representatives for Ortoire/Mayaro and Pointe-a-Pierre. Defeated candidates Roy Augustus, Daphne Phillips, Roodal Moonilal, Michael Als, Stanley Ryan and Jennifer Jones-Kernahan were also not sworn in.

Legal researcher at the Office of the President, Debra Coryatt, could not be reached for comment yesterday on how long the required research on the matter will take, and whether His Excellency had requested the services of other counsel.

The President’s communications officer Arnold Corneal said yesterday he “cannot comment” on that.

Dismissing speculation that His Excellency’s health might have forced the reduction in the number of persons sworn in, Corneal said, “What I know is that arrangements were made for 15 persons to be sworn in. We informed the media of such.”

However, he confirmed that a request was made by Panday for 25 Ministers to take their oath of office on Friday.

Robinson met with Prime Minister Panday—who, along with Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj— were sworn in on Wednesday, at 11.30 a.m. on Friday after he received the request.

He met again with Panday following the abbreviated swearing in ceremony.

Panday met with his sworn-in and unsworn Cabinet members at the Prime Minister’s Residence after Friday’s function at President House.

Defeated San Fernando East candidate Roodal Moonilal said at that meeting he asked Panday why they were not sworn in as expected on Friday and Panday said “I do not know. That’s for the President to answer.”

A disappointed Moonilal, who was to be a junior Minister in the new Labour Ministry, said “Maybe the media should find out from the President what prevented him from swearing us in and how much longer must we wait.”

Peters said, “well, I am waiting like everyone else. I have confidence”.

UNC financier Jack Warner said UNC supporters were “getting restless over the delays. I doubt whether anyone wants to create a Constitutional crisis. But all these delays can lead to that”.

Warner said “a President has no basis for refusing to accept the recommendations for Ministerial appointment from the Prime Minister. It is no business of a President to refuse to accept as Ministers the persons who lost at the polls”.

He drew attention to Robinson’s address to the Nation on Monday when he spoke of following the precedent set by his predecessors Noor Hassanali and Sir Ellis Clarke.

“Mr Hassanali accepted Hector McLean as Speaker of the House although he lost the Tunapuna seat by 244 votes. And Mclean did not even ask for a recount. He appointed to the Senate Barbara Burke and Wade Mark, who were also unsuccessful at the polls, and Mark was made a Minister.”

Warner said if a President “is correct and proper as he claims to be, how come Mervyn Assam was sworn in before a review of the votes took place, yet Gypsy and Chaitan were not sworn in”.

Stating “we shall wait and see,” Warner questioned, “how could a President recognise the declared winner at the polls, re-appoint a Prime Minister and hold back on appointing the Prime Minister’s choices for his Cabinet? Could you imagine the important position of Minister of National Security remaining vacant still?”

Unsuccessful Arouca North candidate Roy Augustus was recommended by Panday as the National Security Minister.