Support for former prime minister Patrick Manning position that he should be able to defend himself adequately before the Privileges Committee has come from his long-time political nemisis, Basdeo Panday.Speaking in an interview, Panday was referring to the defeated motion of former prime minister Patrick Manning, during Friday's parliamentary sitting.While Panday admitted that he was not aware of "the facts about the case," he saw it as only "natural" that he (Manning) be able to defend himself adequately before the Privileges Committee and agrees with Manning that there was need for constitutional reform."I would have thought that in this modern age, if someone is accused and charged for something, he should be permitted to put forward his best defence," Panday said."One can hang on to a lot of foolishness and archaic customs in order to deny someone the right to defend themselves...This is a modern age."I agree with him (Manning) that there is need for constitutional reform and I don't think anyone has laboured that point any more than I have done."
In his response to Justice Minister Hubert Volney's reference to Manning's motion (to legal representation before the committee) as inviting a "stranger" to "relinquish control" over the "internal procedures of the House," Panday said the Government's decision to hide behind old laws could stagnate the nation's progress.The motion garnered no support from the 27 MPs on the Government side, with the majority of his (Manning) own party colleagues present (five MPs), including Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, opting instead, to abstain from voting. Three PNM MPs supported the motion."I think that it indicates that there is need for a third political force in T&T," Panday said."The PNM looks as though it is dying a slow death and the majority of people in the country are totally dissatisfied with the way the PP is running the Government," Panday said.
Asked whether he believed the disparity in voting among the Opposition spelt division within the ranks of the PNM, Panday said that the split was "open and blatant now," particularly since "they did not support Mr Manning."He said: "There is a division in the party which is very, very deep...and they are prepared to come to Parliament and demonstrate it."
When reminded of a similar division in the UNC, Panday was quick to note a very key distinction citing clearly that "the two cases were not the same."We are talking about a PNM Opposition...there has never been division in a PNM Opposition and once that starts, it indicates that decay has set in," he said."You can't compare the two because the PNM was regarded as the solid party that does not divide."The UNC has always had differences of opinion."Panday said the PNM was a party known for "its unity and its discipline and all kinds of things and that party has indicated that there is a big crack in the ranks and once that happens, the PNM will slowly die."
Asked whether those Opposition MPs who supported the motion-Dr Amery Browne, Fitzgerald Jeffrey and Patricia McIntosh-should face disciplinary action, Panday said while the issue was "a matter for the PNM," had he been the leader of any such party, he would "have a caucus and try to sort the differences out."If you are the leader and there are people in the party who are flouting party rules and policies, then you take them before the caucus and let the party decide what kind of disciplinary action could be taken against them," he said.