BY CONRAD HAMILTON Sunday Observer senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THE attorney representing Montego Bay Deputy Mayor Michael Troupe is declaring that his client will not resign, but has decided to take leave of absence from all party and public offices while he attempts to clear his name of involvement in the deadly lottery scam.
Jamaicans were stunned last week Wednesday morning when news broke that two St James politicians were among five men rounded up by police and military personnel in simultaneous pre-dawn operations led by the Lottery Scam Task Force.
The 56-year-old Troupe, who is also the councillor for the Granville Division, and his son Jevaughn were apprehended at Troupe's house in Granville, while another of Troupe's sons was held in another section of the city.
In a separate operation, Councillor Sylvan Reid (PNP, Salt Spring Division) along with his son were arrested and taken to a police lock-up, in full view of shocked residents and supporters.
Late Friday afternoon, the police confirmed that Troupe and his son Jevaughn were slapped with firearm charges, after an illegal gun was allegedly found at their home during the operation. Both are to appear in the Gun Court on Wednesday in relation to that offence.
According to the police, more than US$10,000 and J$380,000 were reportedly found at the deputy mayor's house, while the search of Reid's Cornwall Courts home turned up uncustomed items, including large plasma televisions, which were also seized. A Honda Civic motor car was also taken from Reid's home.
The arrest of the politicians, who are members of the governing People's National Party (PNP), has triggered numerous calls for them to resign. The PNP has also been coming under fire as a result of its failure to publicly demand the resignation of the men.
But speaking with the Sunday Observer yesterday afternoon, Montego Bay attorney Clayton Morgan, who is representing Troupe, made it clear that his client will not be resigning but will temporarily step away from all public and party offices.
"He is taking leave of absence from his position of deputy mayor and as councillor for the Granville Division, also as a member of the NEC and chairman of the West Central St James constituency executive, pending the case. He has not resigned, I want to make it absolutely clear. It is his intention to re-engage himself to those positions, once he is exonerated by the courts," said Morgan, who explained that the decision followed discussions throughout yesterday with the leadership of the PNP.
Morgan sought to justify why his client has not resigned. "His attorneys, including myself, advised him against resigning, because we believe that once you resign from a position such as that, you are saying you are guilty of the offence, and as far as we are concerned they are just mere allegations. How can you resign from things that you don't know that you are charged for, and those that you are charged for you are not guilty of them? We don't care what the party ask them to do, but the fact is they are not resigning," he insisted.
The attorney added that while the PNP can demand that the men resign or step away from party positions, it cannot force them to resign as councillors.
Morgan, who said he is in contact with Reid's lawyers, revealed that he has been informed that Reid has no immediate plans to take leave of absence from his position of councillor.
Prior to the start of yesterday's meeting of the party's National Executive Council (NEC), Deputy General Secretary of the PNP Julian Robinson disclosed that the arrest of the councillors would be discussed at the two-day forum.
At the end of the first day of the NEC meeting and in response to Troupe's decision to temporarily step away, Robinson told the Sunday Observer that the party had accepted Troupe's decision and was of the view that both men "should have their day in court" before they are asked to resign.
Among those calling for the men's resignation is Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, who said that the allegations against them have influenced negative public perception of the political process.
"I think the councillors should step down. The standard clearly is that they have to go through due process, but I believe that the accusations made are of such serious consequences that they should spare the entire political process. Because I think that Jamaica is looking on the entire political process and crying shame," Holness told journalists outside a meeting of his Jamaica Labour Party at Sandy Bay Primary and Junior High School last week.
"I think that the country is now at a point where we must, with urgency, implement two pieces of legislation which we have been discussing for years, those being the campaign financing legislation and the regulations for the registration of political parties," Holness added.
The Montego Bay business community has also commented on the arrest of the councillors, describing the development as "unfortunate" while at the same time acknowledging that it was "comforting to know that politicians are not above the law".
Troupe, has been the PNP councillor for the Granville Division since 1998, while Reid was elected in the March 2012 local government elections.