UNC accuses PM of misleading Parliament

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Keith Rowley

THE United National Congress (UNC) says it will make the Prime Minister account for, what the Opposition calls, false statements in Parliament when he is brought before the Privileges Committee.

In a statement on Sunday, the Opposition promised to file a motion in Parliament in accordance with Standing Order 32 (2) against Dr Rowley for statements in which he alleged the Opposition Leader “buried” and “covered up” the 1997 Sabga report whilst a member of the Basdeo Panday Cabinet.

Rowley, during his contribution in the House of Representatives last Monday night criticised the UNC for inaction in relation to the report and called for any wrongdoing to be fully prosecuted.

After quoting from the Express May 16 editorial about abuse in children’s homes, Rowley said, “Instead, the government—the UNC Government—buried it in a massive State cover-up for which Ramsaran…and the rest of the Cabinet including current opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the then—legal affairs minister, must now account. Until she explains her own inaction in 1997, Mrs Persad-Bissessar will lack the moral authority to castigate.”

He added that a request was also made to acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob to “put a contingent of policemen to go and find this report.”

UNC’s statement on Sunday said, “This allegation is not just a blatant lie it is a disgusting attempt by Rowley to deflect from the recent scandal where evidence shows children in state facilities are subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

“These state facilities are under the purview of the Children’s Authority for which Rowley himself is the line minister responsible.

“The sickening attempt to distort the 25-year-old Sabga report by falsely suggesting it was “buried” will not deter the public from making Rowley and former Children’s Authority director and PNM candidate Nichola Harvey-Mitchell answer for the horrendous crimes committed against vulnerable children under their watch.”

The statement added the motion was based on substantial Parliamentary evidence which showed that Rowley should have known his statements were inaccurate.

“It is the view of the Opposition UNC, supported by the parliamentary evidence, that the MP for Diego Martin West grossly abused his privilege of freedom of speech as a member of the House of Representatives.

“The UNC will make Rowley account for lying to the people of TT and misleading the Parliament. The people of TT deserve a Prime Minister who can tell the truth. The victims of child abuse deserve justice.”

The UNC said the Sabga report was laid in Parliament and evidence can be found in the Hansard of 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008.

On Saturday, Persad-Bissessar, speaking at the UNC’s joint parliamentary arm and national congress meeting at the Couva South Multi-purpose Hall, Camden, Couva, said the PNM had a lot to answer about its pretence of governing and the protection of children.

“These liars who are saying the UNC did nothing and Kamla did nothing. If one person is proud of my achievements for the children of TT, it is me. I have done more for children than anyone else in this country.

“I am not here to defend the 1997 report, 2001 or 2002 reports, I am here to demand justice for the children of TT.”

She said the UNC brought several pieces of legislation to Parliament and the then Government acted on the report as best as possible, by taking it to the then Commissioner of Police Hilton Guy.

“What do you want me to do? I was a member of a Cabinet then and we acted on that report responsibly. It was given to the police, we drafted a package of legislation to deal with the children and the homes.”