Last week the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives were breached when confidential information about the proceedings of the Privileges Committee was published in a Parliamentary media release. Yet, no one is being held accountable and the Opposition’s call for a proper investigation has been denied in a most secretive manner.
The act of publishing this confidential information must be investigated and a determination made under whose authority the information was released. It is quite possible that a member of the Privileges Committee caused this information to be published and, if so, that person has violated the Standing Orders and must be held to account[i]. The proper functioning of the Privileges Committee requires that Standing Orders are followed.
On Friday, the Opposition called for a full inquiry into the matter by filing a motion to refer it to the Privileges Committee for investigation.
However, without explanation, the Opposition was not permitted to even read the motion into the public record as is the standard practice. Instead, the Opposition was informed by word of mouth before the sitting that the motion was rejected and could not be read into the record. No explanation was provided.
This appears to be a deliberate and targeted attempt to silence the Opposition and to conceal from the public the naked politicking of those assumed to be impartial. Worse, it appears to undermine the rule of law within the nation’s own Parliament.
Instead of someone being held accountable, there has been what appears to be a deliberate attempt to brush aside the breach and stamp out any investigation of the matter. If there is no consequence for breaching the Standing Orders, then what can we expect from greater society?
Friday’s actions in Parliament, come against the backdrop of the Committee being sued for being improperly constituted and for reasons of bias by MP Moonilal. Earlier in the week, the Senior Counsel for the Parliament agreed in Court that no action would be taken with respect to the matters raised against Dr. Moonilal until the Court matter had been determined.
When the powers of the Standing Orders are invoked by the Opposition in the public interest and rightfully to uphold the dignity of the Parliament we are shut down and not even afforded a hearing. This is a practice that cannot continue.
The Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago does not belong to Keith Rowley or any political party; it is the seat of our nation’s young democracy and the symbolic voice of our people. The Government’s abuse of the powers of the Standing Orders to stifle dissent is antithetical to Constitutional democratic values. There is a word for countries where only the approved views of the Government are allowed; a dictatorship. We pray and hope this is not the road the Keith Rowley Administration is intent on taking Trinidad and Tobago down.