Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner says the People's Partnership Government does not have a policy of ethnic balance.Warner said so in response to questions from Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, during yesterday's House of Representatives debate on a private motion. The motion, brought by Rowley, called on the House to condemn former chairman of the Police Service Commission Nizam Mohammed, who said he would work with Parliament to address the ethnic imbalance in the hierarchy of the Police Service. Mohammed's appointment was later revoked by President George Maxwell Richards.
Rowley quoted a recommendation from a report on the review/restructuring of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T, which said that attempts should be made in the new organisation to implement the process to achieve an ethnic balance in the Police Service.
Warner later told legislators in his contribution that the particular recommendation was rejected outright by the Cabinet. Rowley also claimed that under the People's Partnership Government, all 11 members of the Estate Management Business Development Company were citizens of East Indian descent. He said that all the chairmen and deputy chairmen of all the Regional Health Authorities in Trinidad were also East Indians.
Warner said the PNM discriminated against East Indians throughout its existence. Warner said Mohammed was wrong to have made the statement because he had no constitutional authority to deal with the matter.
He said Mohammed was made to pay a price for his irresponsible statement. Warner, however, said the motion was a complete waste of time, adding that if Rowley wanted to score cheap political points and claim victory for having Mohammed removed, then he could do so.
During the debate, which was very heated at times, House Speaker Wade Mark had to caution Rowley and other MPs. Mark warned Rowley against imputing improper motives against Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. Rowley said he was told by staff at the T&T mission in New York that when Ramlogan visited there, he expressed concern about the ethnic composition of the staff there. Rowley said his point was being made to determine it the Government had a policy of ensuring there was ethnic balance in all aspects of life in T&T. After being cautioned by Mark, Rowley moved on to another point. Later, Mark called on Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne to apologise for a comment he made while seated.
Browne got up and apologised for rising on a point of order. This did not satisfy Mark, who later said: "You not apologising? You not apologising?" The debate then continued. Warner produced documentary evidence to indicate that Ramlogan, since assuming office almost one year ago, never travelled to New York. Warner then called on Rowley to apologise for his comments. Rowley got up and spoke, but did not apologise. While seated he said: "The staff lied then?" Several government MPs, including Housing and the Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, repeatedly called on Rowley to apologise for misleading the House. Warner hinted that there were other mechanisms available to the Government to ensure he apologised.
He later said after last Friday's divided vote by the Opposition in Parliament, the 55-year-old party had three factions. "The PNM is split in three ways-five with Diego Martin West (Rowley), five with San Fernando East (Patrick Manning) and two in the bathroom," he said, causing MPs to burst into laughter. Later in the sitting, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Rowley and Mark extended Easter greetings to the people of T&T. The House was then adjourned to a date to be fixed.