Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Constitutional reform a distraction, says Rowley

 Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has said Government is moving in violation of the new Standing Orders to debate reform to the Constitution in an attempt to distract from the scandals plaguing the country, including LifeSport.

The new Standing Orders of the House came into effect yesterday at the first opening of the fifth session of the Tenth Parliament.

Standing Order 14 provides for a fixed recess which states, “Notwithstanding Standing Order 11 (Meeting Days) and subject to Standing Order 13 (Extraordinary Sitting), unless there are urgent or extraordinary reasons for so doing, no sitting of the House of Representatives shall be held from the first week in the month of July to the first week in the month of September in any year.”

Following the adjournment of the House yesterday, Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal moved that the House meet next Monday at 10.30 a.m.  to debate the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill. 

Rowley said this sitting was “illegal and improper” as it goes against the new Standing Orders.

However, when contacted, Moonilal said the House unanimously agreed to meet on Monday and neither Rowley nor any members of the Opposition raised any objection on the adjournment.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Rowley criticised the move to hold a sitting on Monday during a period usually carded for vacation for Parliamentarians.

He made it clear the Opposition has no objection with Parliament meeting to treat with the people’s business but was opposed to it being used by the Government for “political survival”.

Rowley said in his near three decades as a Parliamentarian, the House goes into recess in the month of August and politicians plan their vacation time with their families during this time.

A number of Opposition MPs were absent as House Speaker Wade Mark had granted leave of absence to Opposition MPs Colm Imbert, Donna Cox, Dr Amery Browne and Nileung Hypolite as well as Government MPs Jairam Seemungal and Lincoln Douglas.

Former prime minister and San Fernando West MP Patrick Manning was present and smiled and waved to his colleagues and Government members.

Rowley questioned why Government was rushing to bring reform of the Constitution when, “you on your way out through the door”.

He said the right of recall was a promise made since 2010 in the People’s Partnership manifesto.

“If we have the recall of Parliamentarians in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 how many of them would have been recalled so far? They didn’t want any recall during their term, they want to recall PNM (People’s National Movement) MPs because the PNM is going to win the next election and they want to create mayhem in this country pretending to recall MPs,” said Rowley.