Opposition MP Joanne Thomas says the Parliamentary motion by former prime minister Patrick Manning was a very "persuasive argument" and anyone with "a conscience" would have supported it. She was speaking with reporters yesterday at the launch of an expanded programme for certification for financial advisers at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre. The programme launch, which introduced the course overview as well as explored issues pertinent to its theme-Strengthening the Environment for Investor Confidence-was the product of the collaborative effort of the Institute of Banking and Finance of T&T, the Mutual Fund Association of T&T and the Securities Dealers Association of T&T. Thomas said while she understood "the position" taken by her three colleagues (Dr Amery Browne, Fitzgerald Jeffrey and Patricia McIntosh) to support Manning's request for legal representation at his Privileges Committee hearing, Opposition MPs had "a mandate" to abstain from voting on the motion. "We had a mandate and I understand the choice my three colleagues took, because after hearing Mr Manning's presentation, anyone with a conscience would have been moved to vote in his favour," the MP for St Ann's East said.
In an interview last week, Browne alluded to issues of "conscience and principle," as well as the persuasiveness of Manning's argument, during his presentation and "winding up" of the motion. The motion, in which Manning sought legal counsel for MPs before the Privileges Committee, garnered no support from the Government benches and all but three of his party colleagues abstained from voting.
Manning is currently before the Privileges Committee for allegations he made in Parliament last year about Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar's private residence in Palmiste. Thomas, along with fellow MP Alicia Hospedales, was absent during the vote. Another Opposition MP, Donna Cox, was abroad. Thomas said her absence at the vote was not deliberate as she did not think the debate would wind up" before she returned. She, added, however, that had she been present, she would have been obligated to vote with the majority caucus.
"I think I would have had to go with the mandate of the party but again, as I said, I understand the position my colleagues took," Thomas said. Pressed by reporters to comment on the public perception that the PNM came across as divided because of the split vote, Thomas said nothing was further from the truth.
"I totally disagree, because if you looked at Parliament yesterday (Monday) where four of us debated on the bill, and when you saw the unity that existed at that time, you tell yourself, what is all of this (perception of disunity) about?" she said. "We are still one family and one set of members, focused in one direction, so I totally disagree with that." Thomas said the party's leadership took the decision not to "discipline" the three PNM MPs, but to instead "talk it through and mend this supposed split that the media is making it out to be."