December 28, 2000

Trinidad's president to reconsider rejected Cabinet picks

                  PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) -- Trinidad's President A.N.R. Robinson will
                  consider swearing in some of the Cabinet nominees he passed over last week,
                  following a meeting with Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, the government said in
                  a statement.

                  Robinson met with Panday on Wednesday, nearly a week after the president
                  swore in 15 of the prime minister's 23 present Cabinet picks before abruptly
                  leaving the room.

                  Six who were rejected were losing parliamentary candidates and two won the
                  December 11 elections, but their victories are being appealed in court by the
                  opposition. Two of Panday's 25 choices were not present for the ceremony, but
                  they are winning parliament candidates.

                  Under the former British colony's political system, the leader of the party with
                  the most seats in parliament becomes prime minister. By tradition, the Cabinet
                  has been limited to members of parliament.

                  The opposition People's National Movement last week filed a court challenge to
                  victories by governing party candidates Winston Peters and William Chaitan,
                  saying that they violated the constitution by failing to report they had dual
                  citizenship when they registered as candidates. Peters has U.S. citizenship;
                  Chaitan, Canadian.

                  "The president agreed to consider further, until Monday, the advice of the Prime
                  Minister on the appointment of ministers including Mr. Peters and Mr. Chaitan,"
                  said a Wednesday statement from President House. "This period will allow the
                  President to engage in further consultations."

                  Panday's United National Congress won 19 of 36 seats in the election, and the
                  People's National Movement of former Prime Minister Patrick Manning won 16.
                  A third party won one seat.

                  If the opposition wins the court challenge, it could gain those two seats --
                  swinging power into its favor. The judge also could order a by-election for those

                  Two supporters of Panday's party have filed a counter claim accusing two
                  opposition candidates, including Manning, of falsely claiming to be members of
                  parliament on their candidate registration forms days after the parliament was
                  dissolved for new elections. Manning has been a parliamentarian for 30 years.

                  Panday became the country's first Indo-Trinidadian prime minister in 1995.
                  Trinidadians of East Indian and African descent each make up 40 percent of the
                  population, and people have tended to vote along racial lines. Manning's
                  opposition party has its support base in Afro-Trinidadians.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.