by Jai Parasram
Faris Al Rawi, the PNM spokesman who always has an answer for everything, had been silent since his boss, Dr. Keith Rowley, found himself in a rather embarrassing situation with Raveena Rampersad, 17, in San Fernando on Carnival Tuesday. But last week he found his voice after the MP for Tobago East, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, spoke about Dr. Rowley’s outside son, Garth Alleyne.
It has been common knowledge for years, Al Rawi declared. But if that has been so, how is it that Dr. Rowley’s biographic entry on the Parliament website states that the member for Diego Martin West is the father of two girls. And as recently as his “dog and cyat” speech in La Horquetta Rowley was saying he has two daughters.
Once again the two were singing from different song sheets like the time Rowley was telling everybody that he knew nothing about David West’s witness statement but Al Rawi was telling Hema Ramkissoon on TV that Rowley knew about it.
So last week when Alleyne-Toppin went after Rowley on this matter of Garth Alleyne, Al Rawi jumped on it before Rowley could say a word and declared that it was “common knowledge” for years.
Except it seemed that Rowley didn’t know that and he was unable to set the record straight because he was not in Parliament when she spoke. Rowley and his MPs stormed out of the Parliament chamber long before Alleyne-Toppin spoke. The prelude to the PNM’s departure was one of the most disgusting displays of poor manners and unparliamentary conduct by Colm Imbert.
So why did they run away that fast?
We don’t know for sure but it is not the first time. When Rowley presented his infamous emails during a no confidence vote against the government he and his MPs did the same thing so when the vote was taken there was none registered for Rowley and the PNM because no one was present to vote on their own motion.
So it’s no surprise that they did it again last week. But suppose, as some have suggested, that the walkout was prompted by the fear of or inability to rebut the damning information that was to come? Or even worse, that some MPs were not willing to toe the party line and would have voted against Rowley?
The mutiny theory might explain why Rowley and the PNM hastily left the parliamentary chamber. Now Al Rawi is encouraging his boss and the other PNM MPs to continue to stay away from parliament for the rest of this session and speak with the people from outside. That makes it sound like the party is afraid that some of the MPs that Rowley has tossed out might stand with the government since they have nothing to gain with Rowley.
The PP is determined to continue the debate with or without the opposition and if Al Rawi’s recommendation is accepted the PNM’s absence would mean they would be unable to defend their leader and in the end the vote would show no PNM support for Rowley.
While it might appear as a good political strategy to show the motion has collapsed historians might see it as political cowardice only because there is no valid reason for the PNM to stay away from the House of Representatives, especially when others are going to be speaking about Rowley and explain why they think the opposition leader is unfit to be considered a leader in Trinidad and Tobago.
The rules of parliament are clear that members may file motions about their colleagues. Rowley did it with the finance minister knowing long before the first word was spoken the motion would fail. Jack Warner did it too with Speaker Wade Mark expecting the same result. And Rowley did it twice with the government knowing that the large government majority would defeat both motions.
He and his party knew that the only purpose those four motions would serve would be to highlight points of importance, get them in the public domain through the media, and document the proceedings in the official Hansard.
If that was the point, then why deny the government an opportunity to put Rowley under scrutiny? When the shoe was on the other foot Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the PP MPs stood their ground and defended themselves. But it’s a different story with the PNM.
Imbert threw his tantrum and walked away from the best chance the PNM had to defend Rowley and show to the nation why they think he is worthy of aspiring to lead the country. Now the record will show no PNM member stood up for Rowley and he himself was silent.
Boycotting parliament is not the answer,. The people elected Rowley and 12 other MPs to represent them in the legislature and running away is a betrayal of the people who expect representation from their MPs. There will be time enough to speak from political platforms in Woodford Square and wherever else Rowley chooses to go.
The HOR meets again next Wednesday, April 8, 2015. And if Rowley and his MPs want to salvage their political credibility and show respect for the parliament they would occupy their seats and present arguments to knock down those the PP will present.
If they stay away, the message would be clear: they have already accepted defeat.
The VOICE Today
Friday April 3, 2015