By Clint Chan Tack Newsday
All 18 United National Congress (UNC) Members of Parliament have decided to refuse to accept pay increases recently announced by Prime Minister Patrick Manning because they regard the People's National Movement (PNM) Government as "illegitimate".
This was announced by UNC Political Leader Basdeo Panday when he addressed a news conference at the party's Rienzi Complex headquarters in Couva yesterday.
Panday told reporters: "It was agreed that the Members will not accept the increase which Mr Manning has announced. The reason being that we think this is not the right time to do it, and secondly, we do not regard the Government as legitimate.
"Consequently we will not accept the increase, including the backpay," he stated.
Asked whether he thought the Government would go ahead and implement the pay increases for their MPs, the UNC leader replied: "You will have to ask the Government that of course."
Questioned as to the next step following the breakdown of talks between the PNM and the UNC on Thursday, Panday stated that the Prime Minister must now convene Parliament and show the population that the PNM has the majority, and can run the country.
He reiterated that irrespective of any changes in the political arena from this point onward, a general election is inevitable.
"Sooner or later he (Mr Manning) will have to hold elections. If he cannot get a Budget through for the year 2002 to 2003, he can only spend money illegally," Panday declared.
The UNC leader claimed that Prime Minister Manning could face "possible imprisonment" if he were to pursue this course of action.
He claimed that Mr Manning would continue to run the Government illegally, and would use force in order to stay in power.
The UNC leader also turned down an invitation from former UNC local government candidate Barrington "Skippy" Thomas to join him in "a day of prayer" today.
Thomas launched a hunger strike outside the Red House earlier this week to protest the political impasse in Trinidad and Tobago, and is supporting the UNC's call for either the convening of Parliament or the holding of fresh elections.
He called upon both the Prime Minister and his Political Leader to come and pray with him today. "I have a previous engagement," Panday said.
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