PM: Opposition’s behaviour in Parliament disgraceful

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley holds up a copy of the TT Constitution at a Red House press conference on Thursday afternoon as he condemns the behaviour of the Opposition in Parliament earlier that day. – Jeff Mayers

HOURS after the Electoral College rejected a motion to initiate proceedings to have President Paula-Mae Weekes impeached, the Prime Minister labelled the Opposition’s behaviour throughout the process as disgraceful.

Speaking at a media conference at the Red House after the Extraordinary Sitting, Dr Rowley said he was disturbed by the manner in which the Opposition, both MPs and senators behaved.

“There’s one word to describe what happened today and it is disgraceful.

“But I’m not surprised. It is not the first time that this Opposition Leader, this person, has led people to disgrace this country. This is my country and all I can say of them, they are a group of disgraceful people, unfit and unworthy of public office.”

Rowley added that while the Opposition and Government will differ politically, he, after years in Parliament, have called some who opposed him, friends.

“People on different sides of the political divide does not necessarily mean that you are disagreeable to one another. I’ve said this before. I have been very aggressively politically opposed to people who currently are my friends. Unfortunately I cannot say the same is happening with this batch of people who are being led down this road.”

He recalled being opposed to Basdeo Panday and never felt that way adding that when he was on the back bench of the PNM and his own party colleagues shunned him it was and opposition member Kelvin Ramnath that sat with him. Rowley joked that one time after a heated debate with his political rival Hochoy Charles, Rowley gave him a drop to his hotel when he should have made him walk.

Throughout the motion, House Speaker Brigid Annisette-George was routinely interrupted by the Opposition both in the House of Representatives and in the Electoral College which comprised both senators and MPs.

Their issues included Parliament staff turning off their microphones and the denial of the Speaker to allow Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to respond to her and to read her motion in both the House of Representatives and in the Electoral College, although the motion was given to each member in both places days ago.

Rowley said based on all that was raised leading up to the failed motion, it was evident that there is a need for constitutional reform but based on the Opposition’s behaviour on Thursday, he does not expect that to happen any time soon.

“I hope that is not the life blood of this country, otherwise we dead. These people are never going to agree to reform anything. They are agreeing to nothing. Look at their behaviour in all that matters and you tell me if you see them putting the country first?”

Rowley said the motion was destined to fail because it lacked merit and questioned why the Opposition Leader sought to impeach the President and not bring a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, who was part and parcel of a supposed conspiracy to undermine the Police Service Commission (PSC).

Rowley said there was no need for the Government to try and intimidate and or otherwise influence the PSC in selecting a Police Commissioner, or get rid of one, when they can vote against them when the matter is raised in Parliament.

Speaking on the Opposition’s demand for a debate during the motion, Rowley read the full contents of Section 36 (1) of the Constitution in order to demonstrate that there was no such provision.

He also questioned what members of the Opposition wanted to say against the President that they had not already said publicly, and for which they needed the protection of parliamentary privilege.

He added that if the motion passed, Weekes would have been removed from office immediately and he thanked those that voted against the motion.

The impeachment motion, which was a culmination of issues surrounding the now-collapsed PSC led by Bliss Seepersad, failed with a vote of 47 against and 24 in favour. The motion needed 46 votes to pass.

Rowley said while Persad-Bissessar may have been ignoring the names submitted by the President for the appointment of the PSC, the Government will treat with it as soon as possible. To date the President submitted four of the five names needed to form the PSC.

He stayed away from commenting on whether or not the soon-to-be-appointed PSC could continue the work of the previous commission to appoint a police commissioner or would have to start from scratch. Rowley said he was purposefully doing that to avoid being accused of giving directives to the yet installed PSC.