Parliament's Privileges Committee is moving next to complete matters concerning People's Partnership (PP) MP Anil Roberts and Opposition Leader Keith Rowley before the end of the session next month, according to PP House leader Roodal Moonilal.Moonilal indicated that yesterday while addressing the Lower House on the Privileges Committee's report regarding PNM MP Patrick Manning, former prime minister.Manning, who was absent from the House yesterday, was found guilty by the committee and suspended with immediate effect from the House regarding contempt charges.The suspension came a week ahead of the May 24 anniversary when the PNM, which Manning had led, was defeated by the PP coalition in last year's general election.When the vote was taken at 8.20 pm 25 Government MPs, including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, voted in favour of Manning's suspension.Nine Opposition MPs, including Opposition Leader Keith Rowley, voted against. There were no abstentions.
With Manning's seat empty yesterday, House Speaker Wade Mark announced Manning had sought leave from the House from May 16 to 20.The charges against Manning stemmed from allegations he made about Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar's house last November 19 and the funding and size of it. She refuted the allegations immediately after supplying proof. Manning was referred to the committee shortly after.Moonilal said Parliament's nine-member Privileges Committee held ten meetings. He indicated Manning was often unco-operative and refused to attend.He said the committee found Manning guilty of contempt of Parliament on all three charges against him.
This included deliberately misleading the House, grossly and recklessly abusing parliamentary freedom of speech and bringing the House into disrepute and public odium by imputing improper motives to a member.Moonilal said that apart from Manning's issue, the committee had other matters to deal with concerning PP's Roberts and PNM's Rowley.Roberts was referred to the committee late last year in connection with alleged statements in December about a Nicky Minaj concert. Rowley was referred to the committee last week following alleged statements about the Attorney General recently.
Moonilal said the committee agreed, consistent with the order in which the matters were referred, to proceed with the matter involving Manning - which started in November - ahead of Roberts' matter.Moonilal added: "It is our intention to meet shortly to deal with the second and third matters which were only referred to us, and it is our intention to report on these matters prior to the end of the session."The session ends around June 17, Parliament confirmed.Moonilal noted the various developments - from court interventions to motions - along the route of the privileges issue concerning Manning.Moonilal said Manning's recent motion in the Parliament to seek legal representation was a "signal moment" and had never happened before.
Moonilal noted at length that no other PNM MPs spoke in support of the motion and some PNM MPs' abstention on the vote as well as the absence of some PNM MPs when the vote was taken.He said Manning had often cancelled scheduled appearances before the committee."He clearly believed he was entitled to call the shots and direct the committee's pace," Moonilal added.He said Manning twice said he had funerals to attend and once calling at 5.45 am to cancel. But he said the committee "bent over backwards" and took pains to work with Manning's schedule.As the committee's report drew closer, Moonilal said Manning noted he would be unavailable last Friday and had a pre-arranged medical.He said, however, Manning only applied for leave for this week on Sunday.
"When PNM MPs (Rowley) and North East (Colm Imbert) were playing cricket with us on Sunday he (Manning) was busy writing letters," he added.Noting that Manning had said his arrangements in Cuba were made in early April and his travel ticket was firmed up on May 11, Moonilal said Manning knew he was leaving, but said nothing until the last minute.Noting Manning's efforts to have legal representation, Moonilal said the committee was not a court of law and had felt the best person to "tell the story" of the issue at hand was the person at the centre of it.Moonilal said Manning never took the opportunity or apologise or seek to have Persad-Bissessar to the Privileges Committee for her own rebuttals on the issue. nor did he file any motion on her alleged conduct, Moonilal said.