PORT OF SPAIN –– Eleven days after declaring they would not go back to the House of Representatives until Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s suspension was overturned, People’s National Movement (PNM) parliamentarians are preparing to head back.
PNM chairman Franklin Khan said yesterday the MPs would return to Parliament on Friday to debate a private motion and call for Rowley’s suspension to be rescinded.
He was kicked out of the House of Representatives on May 6, after a vote of no confidence against him was passed. The motion was filed by the government on the grounds that Rowley read out what turned out to be false emails in Parliament on May 20, 2013, which had alleged criminal misconduct in public office by the prime minister and several cabinet ministers.
The Diego Martin West representative has been banned from the rest of the current session of Parliament which will end no later than June 17. He will return only if he wins a seat in the next general election. In response, the PNM announced a boycott of Parliament and, in addition to walking out of that sitting, missed subsequent ones on May 8, 13 and 15.
However, Khan told a media conference yesterday that in the absence of the opposition, Parliament was sitting twice a week, instead of having the usual one sitting. An MP’s seat may be declared vacant if he or she misses six consecutive sittings of Parliament without permission.
“We are going to debunk this whole foolishness that they [are] setting a trap for us to miss six successive sittings,” Khan told the media.
“After the May 22 sitting, there would be no more six sittings until June 17, except if the UNC [United National Congress] decide to keep a session every day of the week.”
However, Leader of Government Business in the Lower House, Roodal Moonilal, said it was “ludicrous to even think of declaring a seat vacant a week before Parliament ends” and contended that the PNM MPs were returning to Parliament because Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader and Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner “had shown them up to be lazy”.
“What is happening is the PNM [are] now climbing down from their high horse, seeking to crawl back into Parliament due to public pressures and the people’s strong will that demands a return to Parliament. But they’ve also caught Mr Warner stealing their spotlight in Parliament since, in recent weeks of their absence, he has raised more motions than they did in three years,” he was quoted in the Trinidad Guardian as saying.
Moonilal, the UNC’s deputy political leader, had previously called on the PNM MPs to return their salaries since he said they were not representing their constituents in Parliament.