Monday, June 3, 2013

Turbulent times for TOP

Leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People
Ashworth Jack
Even before an injunction was filed against the Executive of the Tobago Organisation of The People (TOP), several questions and concerns were being posed to the Executive of the party. Tobago News has seen a number of correspondences that show the once dominant party could be experiencing some turbulent times.

One such communiqué relates to an attempt by failed 2013 TOP candidate for Roxborough/Delaford Anselm Richards who was rejected from contesting the post of Chairman in the party. Richards, who was given the all-clear by the TOP five months ago to contest the elections on its behalf, was deemed ineligible from contesting the post on the Executive because of the relatively short period he has been a ‘registered member’ of the party. Tobago News obtained a letter from the party’s General Secretary, Alicia Edwards informing Richards of his disqualification. Edwards wrote to Richards: “It has been brought to my attention that last Sunday, 19th May, you paid and received a receipt for membership dues, dating back to January 2009 and you are using this receipt as proof that you actually joined the party at that time. I would have personally received your membership application in December, 2012 after you would have been named a TOP candidate for the 2013 THA Elections. As such, since one can only verify and initiate membership activity upon receipt of an application form, irrespective the date on the document, I must advise you that there are two options available to you regarding your dues. Either the portion of the funds representing your membership dues from December 2012 to May 31, 2103 can be retained and the balance refunded to you or the balance can be regarded as an advance payment on your membership dues.

The letter drew a swift response by the party’s Hope/John Dial Action Group. The General Secretary of the Action Group, Gladstone Solomon wrote to Chairman Lionel Coker saying the ‘rejection comes as a surprise and challenges my Action Group’s knowledge of Mr. Richards’ membership of the party.’ Solomon argued that Richards, to his knowledge, is a bonafide member of the party and is qualified to be a candidate at the elections carded for 2nd June 2013.

“I trust you will understand Mr Coker, that a matter of this nature can be construed as an attempt to manipulate the elections process and has the potential to create a rift in the party at a time when same can least be afforded,” Solomon wrote. He went on to describe the attempt to deny Richards an opportunity to run for the post as unconstitutional, noting that it would be sad if the decision becomes the catalyst for destabilisation and disintegration of the party.

Solomon also questioned Coker’s role in vetting nomination forms, including those for the position of chairman, a position Coker currently holds.
Contacted for a comment on the matter, Richards said he preferred not to comment on the controversy at this time, but will be present on Sunday during the elections process at Rovanel’s Resort.

In another letter dated May 21, Justice Minister Christlyn Moore, who chairs the TOP’s constitution-amendment committee wrote to Coker indicating her concerns with respect to amendments of the constitution of the party.

“I wish to express general concern with the amendments that have come from so small percentage of the party’s Membership and the inherent danger on acting on those amendments alone, extensive though some of them are,” Moore penned.

“I will state though that I view the role of this committee not as a rubber stamp for proposed amendments but really as a body whose overall concern is the workability of the constitution as is, and that of the proposed amendments. I consider our remit to also include the right to suggest other amendments that will strengthen the arms of the party and excise those limbs that are unwieldy,” she stated. The Justice Minister also expressed her dissatisfaction that she is yet to receive the minutes of the meeting in which the decision was taken to establish the committee which she heads. She also expressed concern over the party’s decision to premise an election on a ‘one-man- one-vote’ system when the candidates were selected under the obsolete delegate selection process.

In another letter obtained by this paper, Tobago West MP Dr. Delmon Baker wrote to Political Leader Ashworth Jack also noting several inconsistencies with the TOP’s constitution amendment. Dr. Baker stated in his letter dated May 22: “Political Leader, at the outset the present Constitutional framework, and the process leading up to its proposed amendment continues to include major inconsistencies with espoused and agreed upon commitments from the previous Party Annual Conference and Island Council meetings as well as procedural irregularities.”

Baker went on to point to the one-man-one-vote system and the ratification and codification in the Constitution of the Island Council as two of his concerns.

Reproduced from Tobagonews

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