PM: UNC objections to reconvening Parliament hypocritical

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE Prime Minister dismissed objections raised by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to the reconvening of  Parliament on Wednesday to amend the Procurement Act.

Persad-Bissessar charged the reconvening of the Parliament while in recess was in breach of and an undermining of the Constitution. At first, the UNC vowed to stay away, but a later release said its MPs would attend the special sitting.

At a meeting in Siparia on Tuesday night, Dr Rowley said Persad-Bissessar had done this before, as he questioned why there was an uproar over the People’s National Movement (PNM’s) decision to do the same.

Rowley said during her tenure as prime minister of the People’s Partnership she took similar action to reconvene the Parliament to amend the controversial Section 34.

Section 34 was a clause introduced to the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill 2011 by late justice minister Herbert Volney.

It allowed for an accused person to apply to a judge to discharge a case that had been before the court for ten years or more but was as yet undetermined.

It was proclaimed by the late President George Maxwell Richards on August 31, 2012, while the country was celebrating the 50th anniversary of independence.

“You all remember Section 34?” Rowley asked supporters.

“In the dead of night, they proclaim one clause of the law to allow their friends to escape the court. When you all rose up in your thousands and march to the President house, what did Kamla Persad-Bissessar do?

“She summoned the Parliament back. Pressure bussing pipe, water more than flour, she summoned the Parliament to come and reverse the law.

“That did not overthrow the country, that did not undermine the Constitution.”

Rowley also noted the summoning of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), which is also in recess, by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, for an extraordinary session to discuss the issue of democracy in Tobago on Wednesday morning.

This special session was called after Augustine’s home was searched the day before by the White-Collar Crime Unit, as investigations continue into a leaked audio recording which purports to record members of the THA executive discussing using public money to fund a propaganda campaign.

Augustine has confirmed that one of the voices was his.

Saying at the time he was waiting to see what was happening in Tobago, Rowley noted, “I have not heard a word yet from the UNC about the undermining of the THA on that.”

He asked, “How come it is okay for the UNC government in TT to call out the Parliament?

“It is okay for the Chief Secretary to call out the THA, but it is not okay for the PNM to call out the Parliament and to go and fix what she (Persad-Bissessar) said is an error in the law that we need to use every day going forward.

“I say to you tonight to ignore the UNC. It is only idlers and idlers and more idlers who could spend their time in such useless endeavour.”

Rowley said there were difficulties in the law, but the Government was going to fix it.

“We summoned the Parliament to fix it because every single day, somewhere in the government and in many areas of the government, you have to do procurement of some kind or the other.

“You can’t wait until September, when the Parliament comes back, to do that, because in the intervening period we have to breathe, we have to work, because the country has to go on.”