Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rowley to answer contempt charge before Parliament's Privileges Committee

Speaker Wade Mark
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Wednesday asked the Speaker of the House of Representatives to have Opposition Leader Keith Rowley be taken before the Committee of Privileges of Parliament to answer a charge of contempt. 

She sought leave to raise the matter as a question of privilege in accordance with the provisions of Standing order 27(2). 

Persad-Bissessar read from the records to make a case that Rowley deliberately misled the House of Representatives by making statements that he knew or ought to know were false. She also asked for Rowley to be censured for abusing the privilege of free speech within the Parliament. 

Mark responded by stating that his task is not to hold an inquiry in the matter but to determine whether there is a reasonable case to be answered. He said in that context a prima facie case of contempt had been made out and ruled that Rowley would have to face the Privileges Committee.

The Prime Minister's statement on the matter is transcribed below:

Mr. Speaker, at the sitting of the House of Representatives held on Monday May 20, 2013, during the debate on the Motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister and the Government moved by him, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition stated:

“I received a package…and Mr. Speaker ….the content of the package was a series of emails which someone, in a position to package, thought that this country should have access to, based on what was before us, what was being said to us and what it meant for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr. Speaker, when I saw the emails my first reaction was to ensure that it was not frivolous and, therefore, I did not take it to my colleagues, I did not take it to the media, I did not publicize it; I wanted to be satisfied that what this whistle-blower had presented to the Office of the Opposition was information that should be taken seriously. Mr. Speaker, and when I was satisfied that that was so I took the information to the Office of the President.

Mr. Speaker, I waited for six months. I waited for six months to see what would happen with the information that I consider to be extremely important, because it points………to grievous wrongdoing on the part of officers who had in fact failed to answer questions to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

…with a proper examination and corroboration of these emails, would show that the Government sold its mandate for financial gain and is in the employ of persons who use the Government mandate to protect themselves from the court, both at home and aboard. 

It points—Mr. Speaker, this package of emails point to high crime in the office of Trinidad and Tobago. The contents of those emails point to interest by the Proceeds of Crime Act. It points to possible violation of the FIU statute. It points to public officers who may be guilty or having questions to answer for misbehaviour in public office and that will bring the Integrity Commission into place.”

Mr. Speaker, following this statement the Leader of the Opposition proceeded to read into the records of this Honourable House information contained in a document in his possession that he claimed represented email communication involving the Honourable Prime Minister, the Honourable Attorney General and the Hon. Minister of Local Government and one other person. 

Mr. Speaker, the documents upon which the Leader of the Opposition relied alleged the existence of a web of communication that sought to establish activities of serious/criminal wrong doing on the part of those involved.
Mr. Speaker, at the end of his contribution, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition passed a copy of the documents from which he read, via the Chair of the House, to the Leader of the House. 

Mr. Speaker, an examination of the documents reveal that they contains numerous obvious errors, inconsistencies and major discrepancies which suggest that it is a wholly sham document, created for the sole purpose of causing mischief and to maliciously lay false accusations against Members of the Government. It plainly suggests Mr. Speaker that there was a clear intention to mislead this Honourable House.

I therefore submit that the Leader of the Opposition committed contempt of this House on the following grounds:
  1. He deliberately and willfully misled this House
  2. He recklessly abused the privilege of freedom of speech in this House thereby bringing this House into public ridicule and odium.
In respect of the first ground, Mr. Speaker, it is my considered opinion that the Leader of the Opposition knew that the document from which he quoted was a mere fabrication or, at the very least, he ought to have known that it was false since this was plainly obvious from the face of the document.

On the second ground, Mr. Speaker, I contend that the Leader of the Opposition recklessly abused the freedom of speech in this House when, relying on this plainly fictitious/false documents, he proceeded to level serious allegations of serious/criminal wrong doing on the part of the Honourable Prime Minister and other Ministers during his contribution in this Honourable House.

Mr. Speaker, this wanton action on the part of the Leader of the Opposition cannot escape the scrutiny of this House because it has the potential to spread the contagion of disbelief to everything said in this Honourable House.

In light of the above Mr. Speaker, I seek your leave to have this matter referred to the Committee of Privileges of this House for its consideration and report.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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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