|File: Former PM Patrick Manning during the walk from Port of Spain to San Fernando to protest his suspension from Parliament|
In doing so, he would be clearing the way for a by-election and a fully capable MP to attend to the needs of constituents of San Fernando East. A healthy MP would also be able to add weight to the efforts of the opposition People’s National Movement in the cut and thrust of debate in the Parliament. Yesterday (Wednesday) marked one year since the “slight stroke” hit Mr Manning.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives has been understanding and allowed the former PNM leader to recuperate, inclusive of an extended stay outside of the country being treated at an internationally-reputed health institution.
But it cannot be expected that the Speaker will continue indefinitely to grant extensions. A repeat of the disgraceful example of the late PNM MP Gordon Draper who spent most of one term abroad undertaking personal work contracts.
Surely Mr Manning will not want to follow the example of Mr Draper; he will certainly not want his last term in office to be marred by being an absentee landlord. He must know that being away from the House he was elected to serve is not about giving him an indefinite time line; rather it is about representation of constituents.
Moreover, Mr Manning has been receiving extension after extension without giving the slightest information on the state of his health, the prognosis for the future and when he is realistically expected to be back on the job. There is a view that he still harbours the intention of returning to the political fray, even possibly making an attempt to somehow regain political leadership of the PNM and just possibly becoming prime minister again.
Those maybe legitimate ambitions to have but they cannot be carried out at the expense of the proper functioning of the Parliament. In the instance of the latter point, Mr Manning cannot be hanging on to qualify for the salary of an MP.
As a former Prime Minister and Parliamentarian Mr Manning has a substantial pension, plus, as has been the instance of former prime ministers and presidents, the state has paid for medical treatment and will no doubt do so again if it becomes necessary. The PNM and the Parliament have been tactful about Mr Manning’s year-long absence.
However, if after a year and there is still no prospect of his being able to return, then it is unlikely he will ever be able to and he should step down. To avoid reoccurrences of an extended leave, perhaps Parliament should amend the standing orders to set a reasonable limit on how long or how often an MP may be absent and still retain a seat.
Reproduced from the GUARDIAN