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Contempt of Parliament

Friday, September 22, 2017
Kamla knocks PM, Young for attack on Mark:
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young have been accused of contempt of Parliament following their attack yesterday on Wade Mark, who sat as a member of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) into the controversial inter-island ferry service.

The accusation was levelled during a press conference by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who accused both men of launching a scathing attack on Mark at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing.

In the law, Persad-Bissessar said it was clear that what Young and the PM did was “contempt of the Parliament.” She said such abuse tends to obstruct the Houses in the performance of their functions by diminishing respect due to them.

“Today, I am of the respectful view that both the Prime Minister and Minister Young are guilty of a contempt of the Parliament by their scandalous, libellous attacks on a Joint Select Committee member in the proceedings yesterday.”

She said with Parliament being prorogued at midday last night, this would pre-empt “any motion of privilege being brought to the Parliament under the Standing Orders for their actions.”

But Young defended his position last night in a text message, stating, “The evidence and documents speak for themselves and show clearly that Mark, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, misled the Parliament and citizens of T&T by putting forward a false email address and attempting to attribute same to the honourable Prime Minister. Did she explain the fabrication of a false email address by Mark?”

Persad-Bissessar also raised the issue that Young breached his oath of office by appearing as the PM’s private counsel at Monday’s JSC.

“I asked today if Minister Young has breached his oath of office in appearing (in the JSC) as private counsel for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who spoke as a witness.”

She said Young sat as Rowley’s private attorney and kept whispering in the PM’s ear.

“At one point he tried to speak, which I think you cannot do in a Joint Select Committee. He has violated his oath of office.”

The job of Young, Persad-Bissessar said, is to uphold public office for transparency and accountability.

In response, Young said: “This indicates that there is a complete lack of appreciation and understanding of the role by Persad-Bissessar. I am an MP, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and accordingly accompanied the PM in that capacity.”

On another issue, Persad-Bissessar queried if Rowley had reported to the police that a known People’s National Movement (PNM) activist had offered an inducement to Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan to get the contract for the passenger and cargo vessels. This was revealed by Rowley in his testimony before the JSC, she said.

“This would amount to an attempted criminal offence, where a person is saying…in the possible nature of a bribe. And then, when the minister heard it, did he report it to the police or anyone else? This could amount to misbehaviour in public office. If it was not reported, why?”