Communications Minister Gerald Hadeed said yesterday that Opposition MP Colm Imbert had “created a diplomatic mess with far-reaching negative repercussions for our country” when he personally attacked Canadian High Commissioner Gerard Latulippe in Parliament last Friday.
In a release from the ministry, Hadeed said Imbert’s accusations were “unwarranted, unjustified and inaccurate”.
“I agree with the High Commissioner that freedom of expression even under parliamentary immunity bears responsibility and respect for human rights. What is worse is that many of our people living in Canada have been calling to say that Imbert’s irresponsibility could cost this country the support of the Canadian government and other governments who, seeing what has happened to the Canadian representative, may feel that the same or worse could happen to them,” he said.
He added that this kind of irresponsibility has always caused problems, and “this wanton disregard for the truth” is also affecting the negotiations for the Loran-Manatee gas field that straddles the international maritime border with Venezuela.
“(Imbert) and his colleagues don’t seem to realise that in trying to discredit us they are doing immeasurable damage to our country, its allies and our international reputation,” he said.
In response to Hadeed’s statement, Imbert said the government should not be challenging the constitutional rights of an elected MP to raise matters of national importance in the Parliament, and taking the side of a foreign diplomat with respect to a matter of national importance.
Imbert said: “What is particularly surprising about his statements is that the government supported me and cancelled the contract with SNC-Lavalin. So quite apart from the fact that the government concurred with my request about all contractual arrangements with SNC. In addition, (Hadeed) is challenging my constitutional right as an MP to express myself in the Parliament on a matter of national importance.
“It is obvious that (he) is very inexperienced and has not held any ministerial positions before and has no understanding of the concept of freedom of speech in Parliament.
“If he were not a novice, he would know that many of his colleagues have shared similar sentiments about contracts involving foreign governments in the past in Parliament and have exercised their constitutional rights in Parliament as I did.”
He said he had noted Latulippe’s comments in the paper about leaving politics and, “for the record the gentlemen contested the election as a candidate for the Canadian Alliance Party in Canada in 2000--13 years after 1987; he was not successful”.
“Rather than (Hadeed) jumping guns and attacking an elected member of Parliament, he would be far better off investigating why all three opposition parties (in Canada) objected to the appointment of this gentleman to be president of the Rights and Democracy agency in Canada in 2010,” Imbert said.
Imbert added the meeting to which he was invited by Latulippe last Thursday was not only with Latulippe and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), but also with a vice president of SNC-Lavalin.
“The invitation came 8 a.m. last Thursday and it was public knowledge that my motion was to be debated the next day (Friday) in Parliament. I found it very strange that knowing this, this gentleman wanted me to meet with him and the contractor,” Imbert said.
Yesterday, the Express reported that Latulippe was “deeply offended” by Imbert’s remarks during a speech in Parliament on his motion calling for the government to terminate all contractual arrangements with the controversial Canadian construction company, SNC-Lavalin, for the Penal Hospital.
Latulippe, in a text message to the Express yesterday, reiterated that he had not served as a parliamentarian since 1989. He added that he had said all he had to on the issue and will make no further comment.