Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP, today sought to raise a matter concerning the privileges of the House involving the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for Diego Martin West, Dr. Keith Rowley.
At the opening of the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament on Friday September 29, 2017, Mrs. Persad-Bissessar, sought leave in accordance with Standing Order 32(2) of the House of Representatives.
The Opposition Leader referred to statements made by the Prime Minister on the 16th September 2017 while attending a heath fair at the Diego Martin Boys RC School, where the Prime Minister and Member for Diego Martin West stated,
“If there is wrongdoing, identify the wrongdoing and hold people accountable. I don’t know that we should be overdoing it and I am not afraid of identifying the people I associate with because I do not knowingly associate with crooks except in Parliament.”
These statements, she pointed out, were broadcast on national television and reported in the print and electronic media.
“In his statements the Honourable Prime Minister and Member for Diego Martin West made damaging, disparaging, negative and contemptuous reflections and imputations upon Members of this House including the Speaker and Parliamentary staff,” Mrs. Persad-Bissessar said.
She noted that Parliamentary privilege is the hallmark of Parliamentary Practice offering protection from interference from whatsoever source and safeguarding the freedom, authority and dignity of the Houses of Parliament.
“The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives and May’s Parliamentary Practice provide guidance as to the law, practice and usage with respect to parliamentary privilege,” the Opposition Leader said.
The Member of Parliament for Siparia noted that “Our very existence here in this Chamber is by way of constitutional mandate.”
“The protection that is afforded by the Constitution the Standing Orders and the settled Practice of this House is designed to protect the sanctity and the dignity not only of Members but also of the House.
“The statements of the Honourable Prime Minister and Member for Diego Martin West were intentional, reckless and contemptuous and reflect upon all Members of this House including the Speaker and the parliamentary staff.
“These statements most certainly reflect upon the character of all Members of the House and were uttered in such a manner to bring this House and Members of this House into odium and ridicule.
“His actions have also brought indignity to the House of Representatives, and I therefore request that this matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges for its consideration and report.”
The Speaker of the House, the Honourable Bridgid Annisette-George, reserved her determination on this matter, and indicated that she would give her decision at a later date.