In the wake of the ‘email scandal’, Trinidad & Tobago Opposition Leader and Parliamentary Representative for Diego Martin West, Dr Keith Rowley, now faces internal backlash in the beleaguered People’s National Movement.
On Monday 2oth May, 2013, Dr Rowley brought another unsuccessful motion of no confidence in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Administration, this time presenting prints of alleged email exchanges between senior Government officials around the time of the passage of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice Bill in 2012.
The Government benches immediately shredded Dr Rowley’s allegations, finding numerous inconsistencies which point to the falsification of evidence. Some emails purported to come from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org all of which are invalid email addresses, yet Dr Rowley’s evidence showed messages emanating from these addresses. In some instances, the emails were alleged to have come from ‘.coN’ addresses, which Dr Rowley sought to justify using a file extension argument, which is completely unrelated to emails.
Dr Rowley claimed to have had the emails for six months, having received them from a ‘whistleblower’ and also having forwarded them to former President George Maxwell Richards. Inspite of compelling evidence which pointed to the emails being falsified, Opposition MPs made weak attempts to defend the emails, repeatedly reading out messages they contained. The Government, on each occasion, shot back accusing Opposition MPs of seeking to deliberately mislead the Parliament based on ‘fabricated’ evidence.
When the Prime Minister stood to make her contribution, Opposition Members beat a hasty retreat and left the chamber. The move was described by many as an act of cowardice, as the Prime Minister laid into Rowley describing him as a ‘disappointment’ and ‘failure’ of a leader. The Prime Minister has since sent the email documents to the Commissioner of Police asking for a full investigation as to the source. Dr Rowley has since been referred to the Committee of Privileges of Parliament and stands accused of deliberately misleading the Parliament.
Following the failed attempts by the PNM Opposition, insiders are said to have waged war on Dr Rowley, claiming that he has led the party into its worst embarrassment since the party was demolished in the 1986 general elections, holding on to only three of 36 Parliamentary seats.
“I was stunned that he believed we wouldn’t be found out,” one enraged PNM insider told TriniLeaks, adding “and to bring a motion of no confidence in a Government that clearly still commands a strong majority of the popular support, it was an insane move and should never have happened.”
Another PNM insider, who at first refused to comment, returned calls and said: “I don’t see how the PNM can recover from this. Our Parliamentary bench is weak, save for people like Imbert and McDonald. Keith has weakened us even more. We look like a bunch of jokers in Parliament and generally, it is at the mid-term mark of the Government that the Opposition either has a resurgence, or sinks into some kind of oblivion.”
The insider raged as he recounted the days of debate: “It was painful looking at MPs defend this farce, and talk about truth. This is a party that once held Government for three decades and now we are not even fit for Opposition!”
Asked whether Dr Rowley will be asked to step down as PNM Leader, the insider said dryly: “And put who? Imbert can’t command the base, McDonald is loyal to Keith, Amery Browne is an embarrassment and has too many questions hanging over his head and Donna has absolutely no national appeal, especially since that stupid incident at Balisier House. So who will lead? Hospedales?”
Asked further whether former leader Patrick Manning is out of the running, the insider said: “We’re looking on and waiting. Manning would definitely be a stronger leader, having had his time in the wilderness, but the question is, if he returns, can he command broad national support?”