Suspended Member of Parliament for San Fernando East and former prime minister Patrick Manning says he has been given a clean bill of health by Cuban doctors and is prepared "to take on" the Government. "We are not taking that," he said to supporters from his San Fernando East constituency who assembled at the Piarco International Airport to welcome him home yesterday. He said over the past 12 months in office "the Government has violated a number of laws and the Government is in considerable trouble, considerable." Manning's flight landed shortly before 4 pm yesterday afternoon and minutes later he was greeted to chants of "we want you back, we want you back, we have your back, we have your back."
Among those in the crowd to welcome Manning and his wife, Hazel, home, were former Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Gary Hunt, former Science Minister Christine Kangaloo and former Social Development Minister Dr Amery Browne and constituency chairman Tina Gronlund-Nunez. Manning said he went to Cuba this week for a routine medical check-up which he had not done for the past two years. In an address to an enthusiastic crowd Manning said the Privileges Committee of the House of Representatives, which suspended him for the rest of the current session, "acted as a kangaroo court." He said that was a consequence of the Parliament dominated by the Government with 29 MPs in a 41-seat chamber.
"You could see from what has happened that there was no justice. They took advantage of the fact that they have a majority in Parliament to take nefarious acts, " he added. Manning predicted the Government would realise in due course that his suspension was one of the "major mistakes" it had made in its first year in office. He thanked Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition MPs Colm Imbert and Donna Cox for speaking in support of him during the debate on the report of the committee, which ended with his suspension. Manning said he would consult with Rowley and others, including his constituents, on his next move against his suspension. "And on Monday evening I am going to announce our next course of action," Manning told the cheering crowd.
He said on that day the constituency would hold a special 40th anniversary meeting where a special guest was scheduled to speak. Manning said the battle had just started. He said the People's Partnership Government acted high-handedly in suspending him. Manning said he was left outside the meeting room for 15 minutes when the first meeting of the committee was called. He added: "From the start the Speaker (Wade Mark) was acting as King Wade and I was being treated as though I was an accused felon and therefore I had to take whatever they handed out." Manning said he was not sent to Parliament for that. He said the mistake he had repeatedly made was that he was "too mannish."
Manning said of the 11 meetings called by the committee he was invited to seven. He said he attended four of those meeting and missed three with good reason. He said the committee failed to call Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to appear before it. Manning said the committee accepted the PM's statement in Parliament without any documentary evidence to support it. He said he was suspended because his estimated cost of the PM private residence in south Trinidad varied significantly from the figure stated by Persad-Bissessar. "Is that justice my friends? And we're not taking that. We can't. We're not taking that," he said. He said the show of support had given him the impetus to continue his battle.
Later he told reporters it had not changed his earlier decision not to return to active politics when his current term ended. Responding to the National Petroleum's controversial $40 million trucking contract in which a probe has been launched, Manning said: "It was not by any means an isolated event." Last week, CDS, one of the bidders in the contract, had sent a pre-action protocol letter to Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, seeking an investigation, following concerns another bidder, Ralph Gopaul's firm - Gopaul and Company Ltd (GCL) - may be the preferred bidder. Referring to the controversy, Manning said the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration had been acting in that manner from the start because it had won the May 24 general election.