Concerned Parents Association calls for clarity, more time for NPTA elections

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President of the Concerned Parents Association Clarence Mendoza has accused the interim committee of the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA) of impropriety and called on it to say why entire school districts were prevented from participating in internal elections on Saturday.

Last June Justice Kevin Ramcharan granted an injunction to the association.

In 2019, less than two months before the NPTA elections, the association’s general council removed its national executive committee.

Acting president Mendoza, who was named as one of the 14 defendants on Thursday, filed a judicial review application, arguing he was not duly notified of the new election date in January 2020, so it was cancelled,

Mendoza then withdrew the application.

Speaking during a media conference at Jenny’s On the Boulevard, Cipriani Boulevard, Port of Spain, on Friday, Mendoza claimed several members were ineligible to participate in the association’s elections and no reasons were given.

He added that the timing of the elections seemed rushed anda list of eligible voters was not available. He was concerned that this could lead to confusion, as voters were not clear on their status.

“There is no information, there is no list anywhere to say you can check it to see if your name is on a list or not.

“The Victoria District would have received a list. No other region received a list. (On) the list Victoria Region would have received, 19 parents were banned from polling, 12 co-ordinators were banned, two schools were removed from the list – and that’s one region.

“In the southeastern region we have nothing. So when the southeastern region gets there, they will tell them they can’t participate. And it’s unfair that at last minute you don’t know if you can vote or not, you don’t know if you can be elected to a position or not.”

Mendoza said under Article Seven of the NPTA’s constitution the election could be postponed within 90 days to make the necessary provisions to include a wider number of voters, and said he hoped this would be done to facilitate participants.

Public relations officer of his association Shamila Raheem said she also felt more planning should have gone into the elections, noting the date and the venue at the Valencia Secondary School were an inconvenience to Muslims observing Ramadan.

“We have to bear in mind, Muslims fasting for the month of Ramadan, their last meal is done at 4.30 am and they go (without food) until 6.30 pm.Now you have a venue that is in the Valencia Secondary School,. Couldn’t it be somewhere centralised that would accommodate all?

“What about our south and central units that have to participate in this election? No consideration is being given to them as well. W hether you’re a Muslim, Christian or Hindu, the commute back and forth to Valencia is rather difficult.”

Contacted for comment, interim president of the NPTA Zena Ramatali dismissed Mendoza’s claims and insisted the elections were above board. She cited Article Five of the association’s constitution.

“Only financial members of the association can participate, financial units can participate and according to the constitution only financial members can participate in the business of the organisation.

“It says here in Article Five, on membership affiliation, ‘Only bonafide member units of the NPTA Inc shall be eligible to participate in the business meetings. ‘Bonafide member unit’ is any member unit that has paid its affiliation subscription fee and annual subscription dues.

“So the last time since then those who would have paid up dues would have been 2018-2019. and that is the member unit that can participate. according to the constitution. in the business meeting. which is the annual conference of delegates.

“So, any other queries? This election, as the court allowed us to, is according to the constitution of the Trinidad and Tobago NPTA.”

Ramatali said the committee was working with the Ministry of Education and hoped to begin discussions on addressing school violence.