Today I wish to raise a critical matter. On Monday in the Parliament when we were taking note of the Presidential statement on the reasons for pronouncing a State of Emergency, the Prime Minister, in his winding up of that debate, made some statements that were totally misleading and false.
The Prime Minister raised the fact that the vigils that were being held for Andrea Bharatt were thousands of persons night after night gathering, and these gatherings caused the increase in Covid infections and deaths. The Prime Minister also said that the Opposition organized these vigils; he further said the vigils were organized to exploit the death of Andrea Bharatt; he further said the Opposition paid for the vigils, and that the Opposition provided transport for persons to attend these vigils.
The Prime Minister ought to have known that those statements were falsehoods. They were lies and he was misrepresenting and misleading the Parliament.
The Prime Minister would have known that the statements were not true because he would be briefed by officials from the Ministry of Health. Based on all the research, data presented and technocrats at the Ministry of Health, there is no link between the vigils and the current number of high infections. In fact, the current spike has been attributed to the mass movement of 50,000 persons between Trinidad and Tobago for Easter.
Dr. Rowley must be held accountable for his statements.
The Prime Minister misled the House and the nation by imputing the following:
- In responding to the current spike in COVID-19 cases, the Prime Minister linked the vigils to the current rise in COVID-19 infections;
- That the gathering of “thousands” of persons night after night caused the current spike in COVID-19 infections;
- That the Opposition organised the said vigils;
- The vigils were organised to exploit the death of Andrea Bharatt;
- That the Opposition paid for the vigils;
- That the Opposition provided transport for persons to attend the vigils.
The matter is grounded on the fact that the Prime Minister deliberately misled the House and citizens of the country as he knew or ought to have known the statements which he made was untrue, false, incorrect and deceptive.
a) The Prime Minister knew and ought to have known that the low or negligible numbers of infections at the end of February and the beginning of March would indicate that the candlelight vigils were not the cause for the current COVID-19 spikes. Yet the Prime Minister deliberately misled the House.
b) The Prime Minister knew or ought to have known that had the candlelight vigils been a cause for the current increase in COVID-19 cases, he would have not actively encourage and invited mass movement to and from Tobago for Easter.
c) The Prime Minister deliberately misled the House as he would have repeated his false and misleading claims regarding the candlelight vigil being the cause of the current COVID-19 infections after being interrupted by Members for Naparima, Couva South and Barataria/ San Juan.
d) The fact that the Prime Minister has personal knowledge of the data, facts and made these statements there is a ready presumption of an intention to mislead the House.
e) As it relates to the statements attributed to the Members of the Opposition who organised and/or paid and/or provided transport for persons to attend the vigils, that claim is false and unsubstantiated. When the Member for Barataria/ San Juan rose on Standing Order 48(6) that the Prime Minister was imputing improper motives on the part of the Opposition he did not withdraw and/or correct his statement. In fact, the Prime Minister adopted his misleading statements.
The Prime Minister was the last speaker on the motion and the Opposition had no opportunity to rebut the untruths and misleading statements that were placed on the Hansard.
The behaviour of the Prime Minister in this instance must not go unnoticed as he has brought this Honourable House into disrepute. There is public outrage at these statements that the Prime Minister made which are falsely attributed to Members of this Honourable House and to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
While the Prime Minister does have parliamentary privilege, it must be exercised in a decent, responsible, truthful and honest manner. As the Head of the Government especially at a sensitive time of a State of Emergency, the Prime Minister must be held accountable for his misleading and untruthful statements.
Based on the foregoing, the Prime Minister has deliberately misled the House, he has committed a contempt of the Parliament and abused his privilege as a Member of this esteemed House.
As such, I submit that the Prime Minister has committed a breach of privilege of the House and should be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
This motion will be laid at the earliest opportunity.