Ashworth Jack, political leader of the Tobago Organization of the People (TOP) had previously announced that the party’s internal elections would be carded for this Sunday at the Mason Hall Primary school. It was brought to the attention of the media via a press release received last night that the internal elections would be postponed indefinitely, citing concerns raised amongst members of the party, which they felt needed to be taken into consideration before the internal elections were held.
Speaking at a press conference at the headquarters of the TOP located at Old Market Square, Uptown Scarborough, Jack said the one ‘man, one vote’ issue has been set aside and the accepted practice of the delegate system will continue. It was the right thing to postpone the elections then, based on the furor generated by the court case Jack stated.
The TOP election which was to come off on June 02 had to be aborted due to the high court injunction. The intention then was to have the elections through the use of the delegate system but that was challenged in the court as unconstitutional by K R Lalla & Company-Attorneys at Law, acting on behalf of TOP members Gladstone Solomon, one of twelve (12) losing candidates in the last Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections and Trevor Gardiner.
The court had ruled late on the evening of June 01 that any elections then by the TOP could only have gone ahead through the delegate system. Since that aborted elections to now, disenchantment has arisen within the party with some senior members calling for the party chairman, Lionel Coker and Jack to demit their positions. The main issue that is at the center of the TOP infighting, as we were reliably informed has to do with the party’s accounting or lack thereof because of the millions of dollars that has passed through its coffers since it became a Peoples’ Partnership coalition member.
Jack said at the press conference that he heard some very erroneous statements being made, some were downright malicious allegations, others were simply laughable and they all were directed at him. He added that there seems to be a movement by some members of the party that an election should not take place until the party’s constitution has been amended.
According to him, there is only one thing in the constitution that prevents anyone who is a member from being nominated for any Arm of the party, and that is section 3:10 which states, ‘one must be a member of the party for 12 consecutive months before they are allowed to run for an executive position’.
He noted that within three months after the election the process for amending the constitution will begin. Pastor Terrence Baynes, a very popular figure in the TOP and a special adviser to the Minister of Justice has been one of the voices calling for the resignation of all executive members, cancellation of the previous nomination process and fresh elections for all positions including that of the political leader.
Baynes had earlier resigned his position as vice-chairman on April 10 based on what he described as unscrupulous developments perpetuated by members of the TOP hierarchy to which he cannot be a part of.
Ashworth Jack, in a clear reference during his press conference to Pastor Baynes said that he has heard pronouncements of the former vice-chairman on the radio and television and “I had to wonder about our connections to God sometimes and the truth”.
He said, “The TOP like any other political organization is going through a bit of changes based on peoples’ perception…and apart from us having to fix this, the TOP remains a very strong organization”.