October 13, 2001

Trinidad's president dissolves Parliament

                 PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) -- Trinidad and Tobago's president dissolved
                 Parliament on Saturday, bowing to the prime minister who had demanded
                 new elections after losing his legislative majority.

                 The order to dissolve Parliament was signed "acting in accordance with advice
                 from the prime minister," said a written statement from President Arthur N.R.
                 Robinson's office.

                 Prime Minister Basdeo Panday has asked that elections be held on December 10 --
                 nearly four years ahead of schedule. But it was unclear if Robinson would approve
                 the date, given his repeated questioning of the accuracy of voter lists.

                 By law, however, elections must come within three months after the Parliament is

                 The Parliament's dissolution comes after weeks of political discord in Trinidad.

                 Earlier this month, Panday fired two ministers from his Cabinet, while another

                 For months, the three members of the governing United National Congress party
                 had clashed publicly with Panday over alleged corruption at state hospitals and the
                 state oil company, Petrotrin.

                 The renegade ministers then joined in an alliance with the opposition People's
                 National Movement to give it a 19 to 16 majority in the Parliament, where the
                 alliance succeeded in blocking legislation last week.

                 Panday issued a call for new elections on Wednesday, but then he encountered
                 another political hurdle.

                 Robin son -- who occupies a largely ceremonial post -- for days refused to dissolve
                 the Parliament, citing concerns that voter lists needed revisions.

                 After general elections last December, which Panday's party narrowly won, the
                 opposition accused the governing party of registering hundreds of voters in districts
                 where they did not live.

                 Since then, tensions have been high between Panday, who is of East Indian
                 descent, and Robinson, who is black.

                 Elections and Boundary Commission Chairman Oswald Wilson has said he intends
                 to remove 100,000 of 900,000 registered voters because they are listed at the
                 wrong addresses.

                 He said a new, preliminary voter list would be made public next month, when any
                 voters removed could reregister with correct addresses.

                 Oil and natural gas-rich Trinidad and Tobago is charged with racial tensions that
                 would dominate any elections. Panday's party is supported mainly by
                 Indo-Trinidadians descended from indentured laborers imported after slavery was
                 outlawed. The opposition is dominated by blacks.

                 Panday became Trinidad's first prime minister of East Indian descent in 1995,
                 ending decades of political domination by Afro-Trinidadians.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.