The trinidad Guardian / The United National Congress (UNC) intends to file a no-confidence motion in House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George following a heated sitting of the Parliament on Friday night which culminated in a walkout by the Opposition.
In a media briefing yesterday, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the party staged a walkout of the Parliament around 7.15 pm after “racist” remarks were made to Princes Town MP Barry Padarath.
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian last night, Annisette-George described the possible motion of no confidence against her as “part and parcel” of the job. “That is their prerogative and if they do so the Standing Orders will dictate how it is done, and I think that is all part and parcel of the job as Speaker.”
During Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives Annisette-George granted permission to Persad-Bissessar to raise a definite matter of urgent public importance related to the aftermath of Tropical Storm Bret.
That debate began at 6 pm.
Around 7 pm, Rowley entered the debate. Rowley said he noticed that during the debate every member from the opposition bench took the opportunity to “grand stand on this tragedy”.
He also defended his stay in Tobago over the weekend. “Let me tell you something, I have to make no apologies to any of you for being in Tobago, I have a house in Tobago and I live in Tobago. So I make no apologies to any of you for being in Tobago and for sleeping in my house in Tobago,” he said.
Rowley said the storm hit on Monday night and he monitored the developments from Tobago.
“By Wednesday after lunch, I was in Oropouche. If the member for Siparia was missing me so much had I known that I would sleep down there. Had I known she was missing me so much I would have gone down there, but I have no house in Siparia,” he said.
Padarath, the MP for Princes Town entered the debate after Rowley.
“The prime minister went to south Trinidad with his hands swinging, not a crix, not a tin of sardines to deliver to the people,” Padarath said.
“I know that he has a disdain for the people in south Trinidad because they believe that they are UNC (United National Congress) people. The people of south Trinidad will not forgive them,” he said.
This statement sparked crosstalk in the Parliament from both benches.
During that crosstalk Padarath claimed Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis called him a racist.
Annisette-George suspended the sitting for ten minutes.
When the sitting was resumed at 7.10 pm, Annisette-George called for the sitting to revert to the debate on the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.
Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young rose to continue his contribution on that debate.
However, the Opposition called for Annisette-George to rule to have Robinson-Regis withdraw the statement and apologise.
While Padarath was calling for the ruling from Annisette-George, he claimed Rowley said he was in fact a racist.
Padarath countered that Rowley was a racist. Persad-Bissessar then staged a walkout by the Opposition.
At the end of the sitting, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi delivered greetings to the Muslim Community on the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations.
The Opposition, however, were not in the House to deliver their greetings.
WE GOT NO JUSTICE IN PARLIAMENT—KAMLA
Speaking yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said the Opposition felt they got no justice in the Parliament.
“The Speaker suspended the House and when we came back we again called on the Speaker under the relevant standing order for a ruling. Again, the Speaker refused to give a ruling and it was at that point we felt that there was no justice in the Parliament and we decided to leave the Parliament.”
She said this incident was the latest the Opposition has faced in the Parliament and this makes it difficult for them to properly represent their constituents.
“Now this is just one in a series of matters that we have great concern about in terms of properly representing our constituents in the Parliament, for our freedom of expression to take up issues in the Parliament. Today, I received a letter from the national executive from the party calling upon us in the Parliament to file a motion of no confidence in the speaker, based on not just last night’s incident but there have been several incidents throughout the course of the year in this session.”
She said Annisette-George was not functioning in the role of Speaker as she should.
“The Speaker’s role is to facilitate freedom of expression within the standing orders. And it is the duty of the Speaker to let parliamentarians have their say in the Parliament. We have experienced a state of affairs and it culminated yesterday where we are of the view that the Speaker has not been facilitating that freedom of expression and we have many examples in that regard.”
PADARATH WAS GROSSLY DISRESPECTFUL—ROBINSON-REGIS
Contacted last night, Robinson-Regis said she felt Padarath was “grossly disrespectful” to Annisette-George on Friday night but that it is the Opposition’s right to file a motion of no confidence against her if they wanted.
“They consistently (walk out of the Parliament) when they feel that they are not getting their way and they consistently disrespect the Parliament and they also take the people’s business for granted,” she said.
“But then again, if they feel that is the way they should conduct their business we consistently stay in the precincts of the Parliament and do the people’s business, and even whilst we were in Opposition we did not resort to that until that time when they put out the Opposition Leader (Dr Keith Rowley),” Robinson-Regis said.
Robinson-Regis said “walking out of the Parliament is not a mechanism for conducting the people’s business effectively but again, I reiterate all these things are their prerogative”.
Robinson-Regis said she felt that Padarath’s statement about the Government treating the people of South with disdain was “highly disrespectful and highly improper” as the PNM has five MPs who represent people from the Southern part of the country.
She said Padarath’s statement had “undertones”.
Speaker under fire from UNC
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