The Red House, Port of Spain. – JEFF K MAYERS
THERE was confusion in the House of Representatives just before 11 pm on Wednesday, when some Opposition MPs appeared to be taken by surprise by the withdrawal of an urgent question to the Government on the Brent Thomas matter.
Around 2 pm, an urgent question filed by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal on the matter was deferred to later in the sitting due to the absence of acting Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon from the Parliament Chamber.
The question which was filed to Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne, asking whether he or his ministry participated with any Caricom agency and/or Barbados, involving the “abduction” of Thomas last year. from Barbados.
Browne is currently overseas.
In a statement in the Barbados parliament on Tuesday, Barbadian Attorney General Dale Marshall SC rejected a statement made by Justice Devindra Rampersad describing Thomas’ arrest in Barbados and his return to TT as an “abduction”, in his ruling on April 25.
After the House passed the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2023) Bill, 2023 (the mid-year review) around 10.44 pm Deputy Speaker Esmond Forde asked Moonilal if he still wanted answers to this question. Moonilal made an inaudible response and Forde accepted this to mean the question was withdrawn.
Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein asked for the question to be answered.
“That question has been filed an hour before the sitting and the Minister can’t find it fit to come to this House to answer that question?”
Forde reminded MPs of the procedure for questions to be answered, in the absence of the government minister to whom the question was put.
He said, “When ministers are not present, we call on the Leader of the House accordingly.”
Forde reminded MPs that Moonilal had withdrawn his question.
“I now proceed to the Leader of the House.”
In response to an inaudible complaint from the opposition benches, Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis said, “We were told that this question was withdrawn.”
In response to a comment from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissesssar, Robinson-Regis quipped, “You were not here.”
St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen questioned the relevance of Persad-Bissessar’s absence or presence in the chamber.
Ameen asked Robinson-Regis, “Who are you shouting at?”
Robinson-Regis countered, “I am shouting at Siparia (Persad-Bissessar) because she was not here.”
She added, “I was here when the Member for Oropouche East withdrew the question.”
Responding to inaudible comments from Opposition MPs, Robinson-Regis told them, “Do not tell me how to speak.”
Forde then told MPs he recognised Robinson-Regis as the only person authorised to speak at that time.
Robinson-Regis told Forde that before Persad-Bissessar “came in from her sojourn, you asked to confirm whether this question (from Moonilal) was withdrawn.”
She said Moonilal “said again that the question was withdrawn.”
Dismissing inaudible comments from Opposition MPs, Robinson-Regis reiterated that Persad-Bissessar was not in the chamber when Moonilal withdrew his question.
She said Persad-Bissessar was not in the chamber when Moonilal indicated twice that the question was withdrawn.
In response to questions about this from Opposition MPs, Robinson-Regis directed them to Moonilal.
“Look him right there. Ask him. Don’t ask me.”
Someone in the opposition benches shouted, “Oropouche East coming to take your wicket.”
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh called for Robinson-Regis to be “reined in.”
Robinson-Regis told Opposition Whip David Lee, “Take control of your bench.”
Shouts of “senior counsel” and “aggressive” were traded across the floor by government and opposition MPs.
Forde instructed all MPs to be silent and allow Robinson-Regis to move the adjournment of the House.
He told Opposition MPs, “I have ruled. If at this late hour, you want to be treated like this, I have so ruled.”
The House was adjourned to a date to be fixed.