Former prime minister of T&T Patrick Manning believes that politicians who are guilty of hiring relatives at their respective constituency offices are not worthy of public office.
Manning made a statement via his Facebook page on Wednesday night.
He disclosed that in all his 44 years as a Parliamentarian, he has never employed a family member or relative in his constituency office.
"Nor have I ever had my mother, father or spouse (common-law or legally married) working in my parliamentary office, whether they were paid or unpaid," Manning stated in the post.
But he failed to mention that he had employed his wife, Hazel Manning, as the minister of education (2001 -2007) and later as minister of local government (2007-2010) during his administration.
Under Manning's leadership, the PNM suffered a defeat in 2010, and Keith Rowley succeeded him as leader of the People's National Movement.
In 2012, he suffered a debilitation stroke and has since made significant recovery after bowing out of the political limelight.
In his social media post Manning said that he always sought to engage the people of the PNM constituency structure who worked tirelessly to ensure that he was elected to office. People, he stated, who had a good working knowledge of the needs of the "grassroots" to work with him in his parliamentary office.
"Those who are guilty of these transgressions are unworthy of public office. And as the youth would say it, "nuff said!," Manning's post read.
On March 20, amid moves by Fixin' T&T to get the Integrity Commission and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to examine several Opposition MPs' hiring of relatives at constituency offices, Opposition MP Suruj Rambachan called on the Clerk of the House to clarify Parliament's guidelines on the hiring issue.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and UNC MPs–Barry Padarath, Dr Bhoe Tewarie and Rushton Paray indicated earlier this month, relatives were working, and had worked at their constituency offices.
On March 17, PNM housing minister Marlene McDonald was dismissed by Prime Minister Rowley after a third set of allegations against her surfaced, this one involving alleged breach of Parliament rules concerning alleged hiring of her spouse, Micheal Carew and his brother, Lennox Carew, at her Port-of-Spain constituency office during 2010-2015.
Persad-Bissessar, on March 12, said two relatives had been employed at her constituency office for several years and after this term's new guidelines, was seeking advice from the Parliament on the situation. Persad-Bissessar's relatives have been employed for 20 years and 14 years.
Padarath disclosed that he terminated the constituency office employment of a relative in February after receiving the Parliament's constituency manual for the 2015-2020 term then. This outlaws hiring of various types of relatives.
Padarath made it clear that it wasn't an "immediate" relative, who had worked in his constituency office. He said he had contacted the Parliament and subsequently repaid salaries paid to the person.
Paray said he had informed the Parliament, when he became MP and found a distant relative (daughter of his grandfather's second wife) employed from the tenure of previous MP Winston Peters. He said he was told by Parliament that due to the distance of the relationship, it was alright. The person is a part-time employee.
Fixin' T&T, however, argued that the UNC MPs breached the Integrity in Public Life Act as it relates to, among others, Sections 24 (2), and 29 (1).
Fixin' T&T was supported by the Independent Liberal Party–which said Persad-Bissessar and Padarath's explanations were "weak" and demanded they resign–and the ruling PNM which repeated PNM chairman Franklin Khan's call for Persad-Bissessar to resign. However, Rambachan, who called on the Clerk of the House to shed light on the matter, said facts on the hiring issue were being distorted.
Noting the difference between guidelines for the past 2010-2015 parliamentary term and the current 2015-2020 term, questions were raised as to who changed the guidelines and if the changed guidelines were formally communicated to MPs or was the manual simply distributed to Parliamentarians without specific communications on the changes.
Questions were also raised as to whether or not the responsibility was of the Clerk of the House and if the guidelines were supposed to be agreed upon by the House Committee.
Other questions challenged if the guidelines were changed by the Clerk of the House or the new Speaker, or were they changed by the Clerk of the House without reference either to the former or new Speaker in the interregnum between the time the tenth Parliament was prorogued and the Eleventh Parliament began?