Opposition Leader: No hard feelings with President or Speaker

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar at a press conference at her office on Charles Street, Port of Spain, on Tuesday afternoon. – SUREASH CHOLAI

After a heated exchange between House Speaker Brigid Annisette-George and Opposition MPs during a sitting of the Lower House on Thursday, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she held no ill will with either the Speaker or the President.

During the First Extraordinary Sitting of the House of Representatives, the microphones of several Opposition MPs were muted when they interrupted the Speaker several times.

During the Senate sitting later on Thursday, opposition senators also voiced their dissatisfaction with proceedings.

The sittings were held to vote on a motion filed by the Opposition to remove President Paula-Mae Weekes from office.

Persad-Bissessar during a media conference at her Charles Street, Port of Spain, office described the muting of the microphones as an attempt to muzzle the Opposition.

She said despite the uproar in both Houses of Parliament, she did not have any personal grudge against Annisette-George or Weekes and instead blamed the Prime Minister.

“Why is the Prime Minister hiding beneath the petticoats of these ladies? You have compromised their offices.

“Be man and man up. You are the centre of this crisis, Prime Minister man up to it and don’t push the ladies in front of you.

“You have the President there, push her in the front to take the fall, you had the Speaker now the poor lady was so beleaguered now you could see it on her face on questions on the process.

“Where is the Prime Minister? Sitting there for over three hours not a word did he say while battering was taking place on these women. I condemn him for that.”

She added that the disagreement may not affect other aspects of Parliamentary business and stressed that the Opposition was not pleased with the way the sittings were conducted.

“We take as the Lord tells us one day at a time, but with respect to those proceedings today, those proceedings, we were saying, we were participating under protest because the guidelines issued unilaterally by the Speaker are illegal.

“That is why, in that process today, we believe that the way in which the debate was to be conducted was illegally done. That may not necessarily impact on other days of the Parliamentary proceedings. We have the ordinary standing orders that will inform behaviour on those proceedings.”

Persad-Bissessar also accused Annisette-George of breaching the rules of the voting process by not allowing a vote of secrecy in the Parliament.

Citing the Legal Notice 187 of 1976 on the roles of the Electoral College, Persad-Bissessar argued that members would be more inclined to vote on the basis of their conscience if the voting was held in secret instead of openly as it was done.