Persad-Bissessar: Parliament no bishops’ tea party

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

SEE YOU INSIDE: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar waves at reporters as she makes her way into the Red House for the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary term on Monday. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB –

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar reacted to President’s Paula-Mae Weekes’ upbraid of MPs over their sometimes unruly conduct by saying Parliament was not a bishops’ tea party.

Speaking in the Red House Rotunda after the ceremonial opening on Monday, the Siparia MP made it clear one must live in the real world of how parliaments globally function.

“Yes, we are elected to represent people and sometimes we have to do so stridently. We have to make our voices heard on behalf of people we represent.

“So I think it is being out of touch with reality. Not the point about working together – of course we should try to work together – but it’s not a bishops’ tea party and sometimes to have those voices represented you have to be strident, you have to be loud, on both sides (of the House).”

She said both sides of the House get shut down.

“I do respectfully honour the office of the President but it would be good if the President would honour her own words.

“We have had matters relating to interference with constitutional duties arising. We had cause to raise it in the Parliament but of course that went south…wasn’t allowed full debate.” Persad-Bissessar said Weekes must honour her own words and not just come to Parliament to buff-up MPs.

“Perhaps she would spend a little more time in the Parliament to see how it functions and why it functions in the way it does. I respectfully believe that somehow her words were misplaced.”

Persad-Bissessar however agreed with Weekes’ remark that MPs must serve the happiness of ordinary people, but said that had not occurred in the last parliamentary session.

“I’ve not seen legislation brought to fight against the scourge of crime. I’ve not seen legislation brought to deal with the poverty we are in.” She also pointed to inaction over the high cost of living.

Persad-Bissessar said she looks forward to the new session including on how crime would be addressed.

She said the Opposition would caucus on whether to continue to walk out whenever Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, stands to speak.

Opposition MPs have walked out of the chamber whenever Armour rises to speak, ever since he became embroiled in a controversy over his remarks to a Florida law court which subsequently disqualified him from representing the Government.