Monday, May 27, 2013

Commentary: Can we trust a political leader who fears his own MPs?

Keith Rowley: "...I did not want it to leak." 
In his botched attempt to inflict a fatal blow on the People's Partnership government in last week's no confidence debate in Parliament Keith Rowley made this startling admission:

“I do not act recklessly I did not act irresponsibly. I did not want to spread rumour and gossip. I did not share it with my colleagues because I did not want it to leak. I have come under attack for daring to do my duty in the only place where privilege exists so that matters like these can be raised. I saw certain elements of corroboration in the emails.”

Here was the Leader of the Opposition claiming to act responsibly telling the legislature that he did not trust members of his own parliamentary caucus. Pay attention to what he said: "I did not share it with my colleagues because I did not want it to leak." Does he mean they are idle gossip-mongers? If you note his words he was calling his "evidence" nothing but "rumour and gossip".

What Rowley was telling the Parliament and the country was that he leads a bunch of people who would have leaked sensitive information if he had shared it with them. But he was also saying that he wanted to keep all this "rumour and gossip" to himself so he alone could be the knight in shining armour credited with slaying the PP government. "I have come under attack for daring to do my duty," he declared.

But it is quite clear that Rowley DID NOT do his duty and in fact did the reverse. His duty, assuming but not admitting that any of his emails were true, was to take the matter to the police immediately on learning about them. And even if in his wisdom he felt that it is something that was so serious that he needed to consult with the president, the responsible thing to do would have been to consult with members of his caucus instead of acting unilaterally.

He himself answered both questions when he stated that he doesn't trust the police to undertake such an investigation and then he indicted his own MPs when he said he didn't trust them because "I did not want it to leak".

So after being "taken aback" by the contents of what he received in his mailbox (material so far discredited as bogus) and waiting a few days he went to the president who was supposed to send it to the Integrity Commission.

Then he waited ... and waited. Rowley was holding what he considered such damning information that, if true could have toppled the government, but he did nothing about it between his meeting with the President at 2:00 PM on January 8th, 2013 and the no confidence motion in Parliament on May 20th, 2013.

I am sorry but that cannot be considered "responsible" as Rowley claims. And if you follow Rowley's logic, you would understand why it is so obvious that he had no case and stopped short of admitting that everything was bogus. "Suppose one of them was true?" he asked rhetorically on Wednesday in the House.

It tells anyone who chooses to analyse what was happening that Rowley could comfortably sit with this information, hide it from his MPs and then wait on a convenient time (six months) to take it to Parliament to engage in public mischief knowing that anyone would spot the glaring inconsistencies.

His trusted Senator and party spokesman Faris Al-Rawi was able to see the documents a few days ahead of the debate and he admitted publicly that he saw errors and inconsistencies. So if at a glance he could see it - and neither he nor Rowley is an IT expert - then Rowley knew, or ought to know, that the material was not the smoking gun.

Still he went to Parliament with it. And he calls that responsible. In fact he knew that he could not make these allegations outside of the Parliament, which is why he said he took the matter to "the only place where privilege exists so that matters like these can be raised". That's an abuse of Parliamentary Privilege because it is an admission that the "only place" he could be protected in making such statements was the Parliament.

That's why he did not respond to Anand Ramlogan's challenge to make the allegations outside and face the consequences or engage with the AG in a public debate on the matter.

Perhaps the issue that was a serious indictment on Rowley as a leader was the walkout when the Speaker allowed Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to end the debate. When the vote was taken there was not a single one cast for the motion, which amounted to a unanimous rejection of Rowley's motion. That's probably a parliamentary first anywhere.

He claimed that allowing the PM to speak was an abuse but Standing order 34.(2) makes it clear that she had that right and the records would show that she exercised that right in March 2012 in Rowley's previous no confidence motion and Rowley did not lead a walkout then.

Persad-Bissessar was on the mark when she said on Friday night that Rowley ran away. “He was not man enough to stay in Parliament!” she said, and offered a plausible reason for the walkout. Members of the PNM caucus were not prepared to support his nonsense, she said.

Perhaps she was right. After all, he put them in a most embarrassing position by asking him to blindly support something without sharing with them the relevant details. And it showed when speaker after speaker had to stumble through like "duncy" heads who failed to prepare for the exam.

Last week was a sad day for the PNM and the only one to blame for it was the party's leader. Kamla was right when she said, "He has brought his office, Parliament and politics into disrepute. He is not fit to hold office and should be removed.”

In a desperate attempt to continue to justify his actions, Rowley told supporters  on Thursday night he has no problem with being sent to jail. "I prefer to be with criminals in the Frederick Street jail and at the Golden Grove Prison rather than criminals in Parliament," he said. Rowley should be careful; sometimes you get what you ask for.

If the PNM truly wants to get back to its glory days and lead this country again it has a responsibility to its members to find a leader. It is clear that Rowley is not up to the task and his poor performance over the past three years even makes Patrick Manning look good. 

Jai Parasram

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai