Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley’s behaviour in the House of Representatives on Friday 9th March, 2018 was offensive and unbecoming of the office that he holds. That’s the view of the United National Congress.
UNC Deputy Political Leader and Opposition Chief Whip David Lee said, “It is ironic that on the very day that the Parliament unanimously passed the historic Anti-Gang Bill that the Prime Minister himself descended into the worst form of political gangsterism.”
MP Lee issued the following statement:
Oropouche MP Dr. Roodal Moonilal posed a legitimate question to Dr. Rowley over the use of public funds to pay for MP Maxie Cuffie’s mounting million-dollar medical bills. He wanted to know whether the PNM was, in any way trying to assist Mr. Cuffie or whether they intended to rely solely on taxpayers’ money to bear this exorbitant cost.
The question is of significant importance, as Dr. Rowley has a responsibility to account to the people for the expenditure of public monies, and to explain his Government’s refusal to provide financial assistance to families with sick children such as four-year-old Halima Mohammed.
Minister Stuart Young announced that the Cabinet had taken a decision to provide even further funding to MP Cuffie up to a ceiling amount, but conveniently said he could not remember what the limit was. It was therefore incumbent upon Dr. Rowley to explain the actions of his Government to the Parliament.
Instead, he demonstrated his sensitive political underbelly as he incorrectly thought Dr. Moonilal had referred to funding for “political elites”. His reaction and response was akin to that of a gang leader as opposed to a political leader. Like a “raging bull’, Rowley challenged Dr. Moonilal to “meet him on the pavement” if he wanted to discuss such an issue.
What message was Dr. Rowley sending to our students and youth? That violent confrontation in the streets is the way to resolve your issues? Dr. Rowley has, in the past, behaved violently in the Parliament. He assaulted another MP by launching a teacup at him. His violent, inflammatory and provocative rhetoric and behaviour glamorise violence. It sends the wrong message to young people who will think this is a satisfactory way to resolve issues.
Now, it appears that Rowley’s followers are taking a cue from their leader, and verbally abusing others. Opposition MP Rudranath Indarsingh has reported that he was verbally abused by Arima MP Anthony Garcia in the tea room. We roundly condemn the attempts by members of this Rowley-led Government to denigrate UNC Members of Parliament, who have been legitimately and genuinely working in the interests of their constituents.
Regarding Dr. Rowley’s apparent misapprehension of Dr. Moonilal’s question, we understand his close relationship with the “political elites” that finance the PNM mean this is a touchy subject for him, however; he must explain why the PNM party has not assisted Mr. Cuffie but keeps dipping into public funds. The UNC is accustomed to having fundraisers to assist those in need via cake sales, barbecues and raffles because we get no support from the Government.
We are not afraid of Dr. Rowley’s political grand charge and will not be intimidated or bullied. We therefore repeat the burning questions: why hasn’t the PNM assisted MP Cuffie? Is it that the taxpayer must foot his medical bills even while he continues to receive his salary as an MP? Instead of showing the public why former PM Patrick Manning described him “a raging bull”, we suggest that he takes the responsibilities and duties of Prime Minister seriously and answer the questions.