Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rowley: I will not subject myself to censorship


Rowley: I will not be censored

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vTAKING IT IN: Opposition MPs, from right, Senator Terrence Deyalsingh, Senator Shamfa Cudjoe and St Ann's East MP Joanne Thomas at yesterday's meeting of the Electoral College in the Parliament Chamber. —Photos: CURTIS CHASE

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Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley refused to speak at yesterday's election of a new President because he did not want his speech vetted by House Speaker Wade Mark.

At a short news conference at Tower D at the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre soon after the Electoral College chaired by Mark elected former justice Anthony Carmona as President, Rowley said he did not object to any major rules as reported in the media, but did object to Mark's vetting of his contribution before it was made.

The Express reported exclusively yesterday that Rowley had not submitted his speech as required by Mark for vetting and therefore would not have been allowed to speak at the event.

Rowley said, according to Section 26 of the Constitution, the Speaker is in charge of the procedure of presidential election and as such invited him to speak on the condition that Rowley first submit his speech to him.

"Which he will censor, monitor and vet and determine what I could, should and would not say on the occasion. Under those conditions, I declined the offer of the Speaker," Rowley said.

Rowley said even on the occasion of the election of a new President he would not "subject" himself to censorship.

He said he questioned why he had to have his contribution censored, and later read in the media that it was a measure to "preserve the dignity of the Electoral College".

"Well I did not think that the office I hold and whatever I would say at the Electoral College was something that had the potential to bring the College into odium and that indignity would have flowed from me if I responded to an invitation," he said.

Rowley said he was "quite happy" that he did not take up that invitation "to be monitored, censored, vetted and fall to the level of dignity as described and determined by him (Mark)".

He said the procedure for the Electoral College is laid out in the Constitution which makes provisions for proposers to speak on the merits of their nominee.

"I am not a proposer and therefore I do not fall under any rule for proposers to speak. It's that speech of the proposer that is required to be submitted to the Speaker for vetting," he said.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and 11 of her Ministers made up the 12 proposers.

Having said that, Rowley was quick to add his support for the election of Carmona.

"We are quite pleased to support (him)," he said.