Although Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday apologised for statements he made last Friday concerning People’s National Movement (PNM) MP Terrence Deyalsingh and animal behaviourist Kristel Marie Ramnath, he maintained it was just “good political picong”. Ramlogan delivered the apology while piloting the Libel and Defamation Act amendment seeking to abolish malicious defamation libel as a criminal offence.
However, picong by PNM senator Camille Robinson-Regis prompted Ramlogan to comment on the issue concerning Deyalsingh and Ramnath. The Opposition PNM walked out of Parliament last Friday during debate on the amendment after Ramlogan reportedly attacked Deyalsingh about a woman described as the MP’s former girlfriend “Kristel”. Ramlogan reportedly said “Kristel” was deprived of Deyalsingh’s services on Valentine’s night.
PNM MPs called on Ramlogan to apologise. The deputy Speaker also called on Ramlogan to apologise for his remarks on Ramnath, an animal behaviourist who gave written views on the drafting of the Dangerous Dogs Bill. The PNM subsequently stormed out of Parliament in protest. In yesterday’s debate, after Robinson-Regis tossed picong at Ramlogan about the United National Congress (UNC), Ramlogan acknowledged that this was picong, adding: “I didn’t get up and walk out of Parliament.”
He explained that last Friday’s House debate on Valentine’s Day included picong about everyone wanting to go home as they really wanted to be with loved ones on Valentine’s night. He added on the Deyalsingh/Ramnath issue: “... So you have to take some fatigue... and then the media said ‘girlfriend’ and a man said ‘my wife and children suffering’ but what does the Hansard (Parliament) record show, two things. I want to correct the media on that.
“First the Hansard shows it wasn’t ‘girlfriend’, it was ‘ex-girlfriend’ and secondly, it also showed when called upon to apologise, I did. It was good political picong and I do hope it wasn’t taken out of context (but)... it probably was.” Ramlogan added: “But to the extent that was misunderstood, misrepresented and inaccurately reported and portrayed... that’s the kind of thing one has to live with as part of a free and functioning, or dysfunctioning, or malfunctioning democratic society.
“But the apology is there. I humbly apologise, you never too big to apologise.” He said political picong was part and parcel of “who we are in T&T.” On debate on the bill, Ramlogan said sometimes remarks were not malicious or intended to cause harm and could be inadvertent or political humour. He noted that in that regard, parliamentary picong and cross talk, if taken out of context, could be misinterpreted.
Ramlogan said that was why the Parliament channel only broadcast the voice of the person on their feet speaking and not the cross stalk. He said MPs understood the dynamics of the situation, so there could be no malicious intent Contacted yesterday, PNM’s Deyalsingh said he had not seen yesterday’s Senate debate when Ramlogan apologised and until he saw a written version or saw it he could not comment.