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Volney takes up ‘independent’ seat
From Section 34 to Seat 43. Sacked minister Herbert Volney began his first parliamentary sitting as an independent UNC MP with many greetings from his PP colleagues in a new seat—No 43—obliquely behind Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.
Volney took the new seat yesterday after notifying Speaker of the House, Wade Mark, on Thursday that he will no longer be under the PP whip— the PP party line—and will operate as an independent UNC MP. Volney, who was fired as justice minister on September 20, decided to go “independent” this week, saying his constituents were hurt by his dismissal, and wanted him to.
Volney was fired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for his role in giving information to Cabinet on Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act. When Parliament resumed recently, before he made his decision, the PP shunted Volney from the backbench behind the Prime Minister to the outermost end of the PP backbench, behind the seat occupied by former prime minister Patrick Manning.
Yesterday, after he officially became an independent, Volney’s nameplate was shifted to his new seat further up the backbench behind the Opposition, with only an aisle separating him from his PP colleagues. Volney is now behind PNM MP Colm Imbert, with Rowley to his right, a couple seats in front.
Before yesterday’s session started, Volney was greeted warmly by PP MPs who came over to him and lined up to shake his hand and chat, including Winston Peters, Suruj Rambachan, COP’s Rodger Samuel, Tim Gopeesingh, Errol McLeod, Fuad Khan, Jairam Seemungal, Collin Partap and Chandresh Sharma. The PP’s Vernella Alleyne-Toppin bumped foreheads with him in greeting.
But the COP’s Prakash Ramadhar—whom Volney has blamed for the Section 34 issue—didn’t meet his gaze and several senior PP MPs also didn’t come over to greet him. PNM MP Marlene McDonald teased Volney to “give them thunder” and Colm Imbert laughed and chatted amiably with Volney.
Rowley started his budget reply by alluding to Volney’s shift, saying, “Our numbers are growing very steadily on this side. Very soon we’ll be in the majority.” He said it was alleged that Volney mishandled the Section 34 issue and was now in seat 43. He said Volney was now in purgatory as “ghost 43.”
Rowley’s contribution was threaded with references to the Section 34 issue and once lumped Volney with another minister in making a reference to “Bonnie and Clyde.” Speaking to reporters afterwards, Volney said he was well positioned to catch the Speaker’s eye to make contributions.
Although PP senator Vasant Bharath said on Thursday that the PP would meet with Volney before yesterday’s debate, Volney said no such meeting had occurred up to then. House leader Roodal Moonilal did not respond to queries about the meeting. He maintained he was not resigning as St Joseph MP. (See Page A28)
Ramadhar: Cabinet was duped on Section 34
The Cabinet was duped. That was the response of Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar yesterday on claims by former Justice Minister Herbert Volney.
Volney said on Thursday that the Cabinet had approved the note to proclaim the controversial Section 34 when he was out of T&T on vacation between August 12 and 27 and Ramadhar, who was acting Justice Minister, and other Cabinet members present could have halted the amendment if they wished, as it passed through their hands.
Volney had said that was why he had maintained he was “the fall guy” in the issue and was unjustifiably fired. He said it was also one of the reasons he had gone independent—to distance himself from the COP in the PP. Speaking before the debate, Ramadhar said in an interview: “Very simply, the Cabinet was duped by the note...The confirmation was a formality and we’ve apologised for the errors we made so there’s really no issue here.”
Volney at the Parliament lunch break yesterday, said he had said all he had to say on the issue and had nothing further to add. He said his relations with COP and TOP colleagues were “cordial.”
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