Clint Chan Tack
THE Opposition UNC on Wednesday boycotted the House of Representatives for a second time.
This means the UNC has boycotted Parliament three times in less than a week. The party first boycotted the House on April 9, after expressing concerns about its MPs and parliamentary staff contracting covid19 after the Prime Minister was diagnosed with the virus on April 6. On April 9, Deputy Speaker Esmond Forde approved requests from Dr Rowley, Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George and Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally to be excused from that day’s sitting of the House. Forde approved no other requests for leave by MPs.
The UNC boycotted the Senate on Tuesday, again for fear of contracting covid19. As the House sitting began around 1.30 pm, Annisette-George said, “I have received correspondence from 18 members of the Opposition of their absence from today’s sitting.” She did not identify who these 18 MPs were. There are 19 UNC MPs in the House.
At the time, Annisette-George did not say she was granting them leave of absence. But after the sitting ended at 2.04 pm, part of a statement about the proceedings on the Parliament’s website said, The Speaker granted leave of absence to 18 members of the Opposition from today’s sitting.”
National Security Minister Stuart Young condemned their absence.
“It saddens me that once again, in the space of less than a week, we the elected members of this House of Representatives, who took an oath to Trinidad and Tobago..an oath to serve our country.. without fear, favour, malice or ill will…find ourselves absent of 19 members..elected members of the House of Representatives of TT.”
He declared, “It would be remiss of me as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago…someone who sees it as a privilege to be elected by the people of TT… in particular for Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West, to not place on the Hansard..my great disappointment (at) the shenanigans…the theatrics and the continued misinformation, false premises relied upon by those who are absent from the other side.”
Young condemned the UNC for trying to politicise Rowley’s medical condition.
Rowley has been in quarantine at the Prime Minister’s residence in Blenheim, Tobago since April 6. He held a virtual covid19 response meeting with the Health and National Security ministries from there on Wednesday.
“I stand here today and I chastise them in their absence. I would say it to them in their face and I also put on record, my personal condemnation as a Member of Parliament, for the absence once again of the the Opposition.” Young said. “There is absolutely no scientific or medical data to support their absence here today, whatsoever.”
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said, “Today we are graced with a significant amount of calm and we are here assembled to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of our society for the betterment of the situation in which we stand.”
Around 1.55 pm, Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis said the Government had completed all of its business on the order paper. The House was adjourned to a date to be fixed.
Under Standing Order 115 (1), members who are unable to attend a sitting of the House must inform the Clerk as early as possible of their inability to attend and seek a leave of absence. Standing Order 115(2) adds that any member who misses six consecutive sittings of the same parliamentary session without leave from the Speaker shall vacate their seat in the House in accordance with Section 49(2) of the Constitution.