Senior front-line members of the Manning administration yesterday launched a concerted attack on their former Cabinet colleague PNM MP, Dr Keith Rowley, defending Government's property tax against Rowley's criticisms. The property tax legislation was passed in the House of Representatives at 9 pm last night despite Opposition objection. This conclusion, against the backdrop of a barrage of criticisms against Rowley by four of his former colleagues–PNM Ministers Peter Taylor, Colm Imbert, Neil Parsanlal and Attorney General John Jeremie. Rowley was stiffly critical of the tax in last Friday's debate. Two of the PNMites claimed Rowley gave assurances when PNM's parliamentary caucus met on the bill, but he did something else when debate took place. When debate resumed in the House yesterday, Rowley was absent.
However, the salvoes against him began immediately, starting with PNM's Taylor who said he was unhappy with Rowley's contribution. Taylor said: "The Member for Diego Martin West sought to do a very great disservice to the facts." The pace increased considerably when PNM's Imbert accused Rowley of being "an Opposition MP and of "losing his reason" due to his (Rowley's) obsession with Udecott and Udecott chairman Calder Hart. Imbert said Rowley had attended PNM's recent caucus, saying he wanted to speak in the bill. But, Imbert said, Rowley gave no indication he wanted to criticise the bill. He said: "More and more we are seeing a spectacle of a member of Government coming in here (Parliament) and speaking as though he is a member of the Opposition and making statements that are not based on fact, bereft of logic and have no reason in them." Imbert said Rowley's statements were of those from a bitter man, who was seeking revenge.
He said: "It is a bitter pill to swallow when a member of the PNM gives food to the Opposition." Imbert added: "I appeal to my colleague this hurt that he feels against Udecott – let it go!" Imbert advised Rowley if he let Udecott and Hart "be the centre of his universe he will continue to lose all reason." He said he could not understand Rowley's statements on the property tax, as Rowley served as one of the tax's "architects" and understood it. He said he believed Rowley's statements were "all in the quest of populism and revenge." Imbert, accusing Rowley of inciting mob hysteria," asked: "Why will a responsible MP make these statements?" Attorney General John Jeremie expressed "horror" at what he said took place. Jeremie said he was appalled that Rowley, despite assurances he gave the PNM's caucus, came to the House and did everything else but support the legislation.
PNM Information Minister Neil Parsanlal said: "I want to say to the member of Diego Martin West that my constituents are equally as angry as those in Diego Martin." He said that fear was only further exasperated by Rowley's opposition towards his own party. He said: "Whenever they hear the member for Diego Martin West speak, they hear him battle with the Prime Minister about Udecott." Parsanal said he knew what to expect from various Opposition MPs. "They come to this House and in more ways than one their only role is to oppose... but what we saw more blatantly the last time we met was the cheap politics of MPs of the opposite side," he said. Finance Minister Karen Tesheira, who wound up debate on the bill last night, said she had heard UNC MPs' objections to the bill and also "unfortunately from one of our MPs also." Earlier yesterday Prime Minister Patrick Manning, at a news conference, when quizzed about Rowley's criticism of property tax, said: "I pick on people my size. It is not a personal thing. I take nothing personal." (with reporting by Michelle Loubon)