|Patrick Manning: "I would not have voted in support of the bill, either in its original or amended form..."|
In a statement, the former PM and leader of the PNM said the controversial Section 34 was so dangerous he would have broken PNM ranks with the party.
The records show Manning was in Parliament during the debate but left the House of Representatives before legislators, including all the PNM MPs, voted for the bill. However Manning did not explained why he was absent for the vote.
Parliament repealed the entire section within days of its proclamation after the Attorney General advised the Prime Minister of serious flaws in the legislation. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar gave a comprehensive account to the nation last Thursday in which she accepted responsibility and offered an apology to citizens.
She also fired the justice minister, whom she said admitted that he erred in advising cabinet on the matter. Opposition Leader Keith Rowley has refused to take any responsibility for voting in favour of the bill although members of his party made the point that it was originally a PNM bill which they fully supported.
Rowley is claiming that it was part of a conspiracy to free certain individuals facing corruption charges. However the government has pointed out that the bill was passed by the Legislature, which is not the government.
Still Rowley is demanding the resignation of the Attorney General and has promised "more action" if the PM doesn't accede to his demand. For her part Persad-Bissessar has dismissed Rowley and her AG remains in office.
Manning said, "I am now making it absolutely clear that had I been present, I would not have voted in support of the bill, either in its original or amended form...I totally reject Section 34 which would have paved the way for corrupt persons to escape the law. I would never have agreed to Schedule 6 omitting corruption offences."
He added, "My position would have been completely different from the rest of the Parliament, including my own party colleagues. They said, ‘yes.’ I would have said, ‘no.’” Manning said.
Rowley told the Express newspaper he has "no comment to make on anything Mr Manning has to say." He added, "As leader of the PNM, I have explained the Opposition's involvement and performance on the issue."