Kamla: Ragbir will be given due process

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bssessar with OWTU members during a UNC cottage meeting at the party’s headquarters at Mulchan Seuchan Road, Chaguanas, on Monday night. – AYANA KINSALE

CUMUTO/Manzanilla MP Dr Rai Ragbir, who voted in favour of the Whistleblower Protection Bill in the Parliament last week, must be afforded due process and will be treated fairly and according to the party’s constitution, says UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Persad-Bissessar told supporters at UNC’s cottage meeting at its Mulchan Seuchan Road, Chaguanas, headquarters on June 24 that the party’s new national executive had “not caucused on the matter.”

The executive, elected on June 15, was sworn in at the headquarters that night. The incumbent Star Team slate collectively pledged their support for the party.

Representatives of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union attended to support the returning executive and were recognised by Persad-Bissessar.

Addressing Ragbir’s vote and subsequent comments in his defence, Persad-Bissessar said he “will be afforded an opportunity to be heard and account for his actions.

“That is the process.”

However, she showed a video showing Ragbir laughing and giving a thumbs-up to PNM MPs after he voted in favour of the government’s Whistleblower Protection Bill, passed in Parliament on June 21. Twenty-two votes were cast in favour of the bill versus 15 against.

Ragbir told Newsday after the vote, having looked at the Whistleblower Bill, “I think it is very important…that we look at the country, we look at crime, and we have to do so collectively.”

He said the party had not discussed the bill.

“I understand that some of my colleagues will be disappointed in my decision today. However, I must point out that no caucus was ever held (to discuss) this important piece of legislation, nor were my views solicited from the chief whip or the Leader of the Opposition,” Ragbir said in a separate statement.

“This has unfortunately become the norm in the Opposition when important pieces of legislation are being considered and demonstrates, in my view, negligence on the part of the opposition.”

Pointe-A-Pierre MP and UNC Chief Whip David Lee, speaking before Persad-Bissessar, refuted Ragbir’s claims that the party had not discussed the bill.

“It is you, who stopped attending the Opposition caucuses,” Lee said.

He said, “Tonight, as chief whip, I am not just disappointed in the actions of MP Ragbir in the Parliament but I take significant umbrage with his subsequent statements that have sought to weaken the image of your colleagues, our leader, and the party in the eyes of the population.

“It is beyond reckless that after he betrayed his constituents and party by voting for the PNM in parliament, he came to the party to complain that there was no caucus, no research, and his views were not sought.

“That is a blatant lie, my brothers and sisters.

He said every MP is sent notices and reminders of Parliamentary business and requests to submit questions, “with a notice stating any MP wishing to contribute is asked to indicate.”

Persad-Bissessar said while Ragbir would be heard, his actions were “mistaken…if (they were) an attempt to provoke me and the new Natex into engaging in some type of bacchanal and internecine war.

“If this is supposed to be the launchpad for another Team Unity or Ram-Jack type bacchanal, just like those, it will go absolutely nowhere.”

“I have no interest in engaging in any bacchanal with anyone.”

She thanked the membership for electing the Star Slate for the sixth time. She said it received 77 per cent of the vote against the United Patriots’ 23 per cent.

“These results are in line with the historical results of these internal elections, similar to the 2015 results,” she said.

“It shows that the vast majority of the membership who voted in these internals have maintained their confidence in the leadership of the UNC.”

She said the past election was “the worst, most destructive campaign waged by any slate I have ever witnessed,” in her time in the UNC.

However, she said the party must move on and focus on the next general election.

“As I said before, the MPs who supported the other slate are welcome to continue working and their future actions will determine their paths forward.

“We are all UNC members, and there is room for all.

“Members and supporters of all slates must now move on together for the greater good of the party, and ultimately, our country.”