By Clint Chan Tack
OPPOSITION LEADER Basdeo Panday yesterday said if President George Maxwell Richards determines that he (Panday) no longer commands the support of the majority of the UNC MPs in the House of Representatives then he would gladly relinquish the post of Opposition Leader to UNC political leader Winston Dookeran. However Panday indicated that this bridge has not been crossed yet and it seemed that the number of Opposition MPs backing Dookeran may not be as large as previously reported.
Speaking to Sunday Newsday, Panday said he had no response to statements made by UNC deputy leader Jack Warner about nine UNC MPs writing to the President to express their support for Dookeran as Opposition Leader. Panday said he did not believe that the reported MPs in question (Ganga Singh, Gerald Yetming, Dr Fuad Khan, Gillian Lucky, Roodal Moonilal and Nizam Baksh) were initiating a palace coup against him. "I have no palace and I am no king," he said. Panday indicated that if the President determines in accordance with the Constitution that Dookeran commands the support of the majority of the Lower House's 16 Opposition MPs, he would in turn abide by whatever decision the President makes.
"I would accept that with joy," the UNC chairman stated. Panday added that what appeared to be happening is that somebody read the Constitution to Warner and some other UNC MPs and they are now doing what they should have been doing in the first place. Singh and Yetming both confirmed that they were supporting Dookeran. The Chief Whip said Panday should stop hiding behind the Constitution, he had promised to turn over the Opposition Leader post to Dookeran. He claimed that Panday made this promise in the presence of Siparia MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar and UNC CEO Dr Tim Gopeesingh.
Attempts to contact Persad-Bissessar and Gopeesingh were unsuccessful. Yetming said he was ready to sign any letter in support of Dookeran as Opposition Leader and this was why he was now sitting in the Opposition's backbenches. When contacted, Moonilal was non-committal about who he supported as Opposition Leader. Khan however contradicted Warner, revealing that no one had spoken to either Lucky or himself about supporting Dookeran. Saying that assumptions of this nature were "precocious", Khan said a public power play was going on for the Opposition Leader's post and the best way to resolve this issue was by a secret ballot.
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