Former prime minister Patrick Manning left for Cuba yesterday, after having stirred up a controversy with his statements that "the siege epitomised by the present Government will be brought to an abrupt and long overdue end". The statement has been criticised by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal, National Security Minister John Sandy and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, with some suggesting that the statements were ominous.
Yesterday, Manning was missing in action. But People's National Movement Senator Fitzgerald Hinds told reporters during the lunch break at yesterday's sitting of the Senate that he knew what Manning meant when he made the statement.
"Mr Manning, who is spiritually inclined, is simply quoting the Bible, saying 'I have seen the wicked spread like a bay tree and wither like a herb at noonday'. (Psalm 37). "This Government is withering. That's all he means," Hinds offered.
Stating that the issue of the validity of the detention of several people was currently being argued before the court, Hinds said he had a strange feeling that the Government has bungled on the matter again.
He repeated Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley's statement that the Prime Minister came to the conclusion on the alleged assassination plot long before the police did, in an effort to get voter support and international sympathy.
Challenging the Prime Minister's statement that the plot was the result of reprisals from drug criminals who were hurting, Hinds said this Government had done nothing to threaten drug dealers, who are in a better position now than before.
He claimed statements allegedly linking a Muslim organisation in Trinidad and Tobago to the plot was causing "turbulence".
"There are a number of Muslims who are concerned about the bad impression and the tarnished image that the Prime Minister's statement has put upon the entire Muslim community... I am listening to the talk-shows and people are beginning to divide themselves along Muslim/Hindu lines in Trinidad and Tobago."
Hinds, in commenting on the Indictable Offences (Preliminary Enquiry) Bill, which is aimed at addressing the delays in the court system, said last Wednesday police were called away from the courts, and "all the matters for about two to three days" were adjourned because "this Government, in its wild way, shut down the whole national security platform, called out the reserves, fire service, prison service, air guard, Coast Guard were confined to barracks because of a threat on the life of the Prime Minister. The police officers could not come to court to deal with their matter and all the matters were adjourned". He said the Government contributed to the chaos in the country.
Hinds said in order for the Indictable Offences bill to work, Government had to deal with the other causes for the delay in the court system. He said, for example, the accused in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder had their preliminary enquiry and the matter was now in the High Court.
But the accused cannot be tried because the trial is expected to last six to eight months and no lawyer wants to take it on unless he is properly paid because he would be tied up for eight months. Noting that legal aid cannot pay more than the usual fees, Hinds said the State has hired Dana Seetahal and Israel Khan and therefore one needed formidable attorneys on the other side.
Hinds said he knew of one Senior Counsel who was willing to take the case and Justice Minister Herbert Volney went to the Cabinet, asking it to agree on a higher fee (than legal aid would pay) and his request was turned down.
Hinds said the matter was being adjourned over and over again. óRia Taitt