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Removing Rowley diabolical, dangerous

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Desperate, the Prime Minister “could not wait for the police investigations”; diabolical and done with cavalier disregard for the rights of the Diego Martin West constituents to have their MP in the Parliament, and for the requirement of natural justice to prevail would be a fitting, however not comprehensive, description of the unilateral and dangerous action taken by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to remove Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley from the House of Representatives.

In all of this, the already severely compromised Speaker of the House of Representatives, Wade Mark, was a willing accomplice. I don’t claim any expert constitutional knowledge, but having read Section 55 of the Standing Orders under which the Government removed Dr Rowley from the House, I can find nothing which can be legitimately applied to remove an MP for the kind of violation said to have been committed by the Member for Diego Martin West. 

In reality, Section 55, under the heading of “Order in the House and Committee,” deals with behavioural infringements, disobedience shown to the Speaker, repeated bad behaviour and refusal to apologise by the MP for the same, even when required to do so by the Speaker. The provisions are essentially for when a member gets out of hand with unparliamentary language and behaviour and refuses to take the advice of the Speaker and instigates “gross disorder” in the House by his/her behaviours. 

Nothing like that transpired two years ago when Dr Rowley presented the emails which claim that there was collusion among the Prime Minister and several of her ministers to threaten murder and more on those standing in their way. The Speaker did not stop the presentation, warn the MP, require that he withdraw statements, that he change language. Nothing like that happened then.

The allegation made against Dr Rowley in the motion of censure was along the lines of abusing the privilege of the House by making claims and allegations under privilege knowing that he/she could not be taken to court. That privilege is allowed by the Parliament so that MPs can freely make allegations and bring matters to the attention of the national community and the security services.

As has been widely noted, the right forum for holding Dr Rowley responsible for allegedly violating the privilege was before the Privileges Committee which has a transparent and more democratic process than a gang-up by members of the ruling party against a member of the opposition. Such a forum, equipped with hard evidence of the investigative kind to be produced by the police and Integrity Commission, it could then be established or not that Dr Rowley abused the privilege and maliciously so. 

And surely if such a finding is arrived at, then a similar investigation has to be carried out on Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, who, without a shred of substantiating evidence (not even a “false email” in tow) called Dr Rowley’s father a rapist and himself a second generation rapist and to the applause and full support of every member on the Government benches.

Question for the experts: could any such provision in the Standing Orders be substituted for the constitutional provisions made for dealing with an MP who abused the privilege?

The removal was even more undemocratic in that investigations triggered by the PM on the Emailgate matter to the Integrity Commission and police are yet to be finished and the results announced. Yet she takes action which seems to be a complete breach of the Standing Orders and the Constitution to use her majority to expel the Leader of the Opposition, or indeed any other MP.

As pointed out by a number of senior counsels and political observers, including the likes of Martin Daly SC, this is frightening and very undemocratic action. What this says far more than what Rowley did was to say to the population that this government is capable of serious interference with the rights of the individual. And if the Government could do so in the national parliament in front the watching eyes of the nation, then what else it would not do with the rights of individuals and groups who have no such clout as the Leader of the Opposition.

This latest attack on freedom carries the same character of the Prime Minister and her cabinet plotting and executing the assassination of the character of Keith Rowley and his father.

What is driving this desperation to demolish the Leader of the Opposition as a strategy to win office after a five-year term? 

The desperation is surely more intense than on previous occasions when a government is seeking to hold on to power. Having previously failed to achieve the goal of Rowley’s destruction, the most recent attempt is to make him into a man of violence (and with all of the understood subtext) issuing threats of “rivers of blood,” likening him to Robert Mugabe, the African dictator who uses violence to deal with opponents of a different ethnicity.

Is the ruling party/government running scared of having the opposition party get hold of the government apparatus?


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