Rowley walks out on own motion; sent to Privileges Committee
PM: Desperate act by Rowley
The Prime Minister made mas as she wound up the debate on the no-confidence motion yesterday, with the expected outcome of a resounding defeat of Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s motion of no confidence in her Government. The vote was 26 against, none in favour.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who was one of the persons accused of wrong-doing in the e-mails, looked fearless and commanding as she launched her counter-attack. She labelled Rowley the “great deceiver” and the e-mails “the great hoax”, to table-thumping endorsement from her troops.
The Prime Minister had a clear stage on which to parade as the Opposition walked out of the Chamber as soon as she rose to speak. They did not even return to vote on their own motion. They were protesting her decision to wind up the debate and not allow the mover, Rowley, to do the honours. But according to the Standing Orders, the Prime Minister was perfectly entitled to enter the debate at the end if she so chose. As People’s National Movement (PNM) MPs marched out, Government members booed, thundering: “Don’t come back.”
With the PNM absent, St Joseph MP Herbert Volney, who sat like the lone ranger opposite the packed Government bench, voted with the Government, lustily joining the chorus of nays.
He also rapped his desk approvingly as the Prime Minister concluded her presentation.
At the end of it all, Rowley was referred to the Privileges Committee. The Prime Minister, who moved the motion of privilege, said Rowley abused the privilege of Parliament to mislead the House, that he was reckless and brought the House into ridicule and disrepute.
House Speaker Wade Mark did not defer his ruling as he usually does when such matters are brought for his consideration. “I am of the view that a prima facie case of contempt has been made out,” he stated.
Adding to the drama was the fainting of a member of the gallery which a forced a 15-minute suspension.
During her contribution, the Prime Minister resisted calls for what Rowley and Volney called an “independent” investigation and maintained her decision to have the investigation spearheaded by the local police. She said she found it hard to believe that Rowley, who had been a parliamentarian for decades and a minister of Government, did not know that the only agency to investigate these alleged crimes was the police.
The Prime Minister, who said she was prepared to surrender her BlackBerry for forensic examination, asked the absent Rowley: “Why did not you not send it (the e-mails) to the President, the Integrity Commission and the police?”
She said the Integrity Commission would be going outside of its remit if it were to probe the criminal aspects of the e-mail allegations —conspiracy to commit murder, the illegal wiretapping and perversion of justice. She went through the Integrity of Public Life Act to support her case.
She said Rowley shifted the ground from Monday when he started with accusations that it was a case of “murder he wrote”, but he was soon reduced to “investigate it, nah” by yesterday.
She said Rowley tried to create fear, panic and anxiety in the country. “He tried to get the citizenry out there in panic (saying to them), ‘Listen, your Prime Minister, your AG and senior officials, look at them people, my God! Where they come from, conspiring to murder people, to tap DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions), remove him from office.’ That is why he did nothing with those e-mails, except to come here. I can’t believe he had those e-mails for six months…. His credibility is totally shut and gone,” she said.
The Prime Minister said the population understood that this was a conspiracy to destabilise the country. “A desperate act on the part of someone who does not even have the support of his own members,” she said.
The Opposition cards, led by a joker, had collapsed at one point when there was no one on that bench who was prepared to speak, she claimed.
“We know why because there was no way they could get up to defend the indefensible,” she quipped. She said it was hilarious the motion accused Government of undermining the parliamentary opposition when they were doing such a good job of it on their own.
The Prime Minister slammed Rowley for sitting on the information for six months, which he had since December 12, 2012. Did he inform the DPP of the illegal wiretap so that he could have his place swept? Did he inform reporter Denyse Renne of the plot to kill her or even make a report to the police? the Prime Minister asked. Did he inform the Chief Justice and other member of the JLSC (Judicial and Legal Service Commission) of the perversion of justice?
“All the member could say is he went to the President. The President has no investigating powers,” she said. Yet, she said, Rowley said nothing happened when he sent it to the President. “Which is the truth?” she asked.
She said Rowley should have sought technological advice, noting even the children (who she claimed Rowley had labelled dunces) who benefited from the Government’s “ground-breaking policy” of providing laptops must be “wondering who is the real duncy-head”.
Despite Rowley’s assertion to the contrary, the Prime Minister maintained her position that it was impossible to have a gmail account with four characters (such as firstname.lastname@example.org).
Persad-Bissessar said what started out as a no-confidence motion had boiled down like bhajee. Noting the debate took place on the eve of the visit of US Vice-President Joe Biden, she apologised to US Charge D’Affaires Thomas Smitham for Rowley bringing his name “into disrepute” in the House.
The Prime Minister said if someone hacked into an e-mail, that was a crime, and if one fabricated an e-mail, it was also a crime.
“So I suspect the investigation that he (Rowley) is calling for is an investigation into himself. I trust that the Opposition Leader would co-operate with the investigations,” the Prime Minister stated. She said the Government would make available the findings of the investigation.
The House was adjourned to a date to be fixed.