Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley led his MPs in a dramatic walkout from Parliament yesterday, moments after Opposition MP Colm Imbert described Government's motion of no confidence against Rowley as having "no purpose, empty, vacuous, tenuous (and) absurd."The motion was presented by leader of Government business, Housing and Urban Development Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, who had said Tuesday that during the debate "information will come that can cause the Opposition to dissolve itself on Wednesday (yesterday)."
But that was not to be, as during his contribution Imbert asked legislators: "What is all this 'tralala' about? This motion is frivolous and vexatious. This motion is childish. This motion has no basis."He then said he was not about to remain in the "Parliament to continue this foolish debate. I am leaving now."At the same time, Chief Whip Marlene Mc Donald said "yeah" with a smile on her face. Other Opposition MPs, including Rowley, who was seated, started to pack their things for the walkout.
Government MPs looked surprised and shouted across the floor: "Shame! Shame!"But Imbert still had the floor. He said: "You could say what you want. Whatever you have to say, say it outside."Mc Donald shouted to the Government MPs as she left: "Goodbye, goodbye."Imbert then raised his tone: "Mr Speaker, if they name man, if you name man, come outside! Don't stay inside... a bunch of cowards. I am gone from here."The shouting match did not stop there but was inaudible as both sides shouted at the other.
House Speaker Wade Mark then called on the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar to begin his contribution in the debate.The walkout caused an interview being conducted in the corridor by Moonilal to be temporarily stopped as the Opposition approached his location."This is outrageous... abandoning the Parliament after people voted for you to come to the Parliament to discuss the issues," Moonilal said in response to the Opposition walkout.
He said he was calling on citizens "to abandon the PNM if that was the reckless conduct we can expect."With nobody on the Opposition benches, the debate was adjourned at 6.07 pm to April 8 but the House could not continue with other business because of the walkout.Just over a year ago, in February 2014, the Opposition also walked out of Parliament during the wind up of the debate on the Dog Control (Amendment) Bill. The walkout stemmed from an allegation against animal behaviouralist Kristel Ramnath.
Attack on West
Earlier, Imbert told legislators the intent of the motion was "to discredit the credibility of David West."That is the inescapable conclusion," Imbert said, prompting loud desk-thumping on the Opposition benches.West, who is the director of the Police Complaints Authority, is a key witness for Rowley in a private defamation matter against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan.
West has claimed that the then AG had asked him to withdraw his witness statement in the matter relating to the unsuccessful extradition of businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh to the US.Imbert said West's 12-page witness statement made no reference to Rowley's conduct."This witness statement is about the former attorney general. This witness statement speaks about things that, if they are true, are awful, Mr Speaker," Imbert said.
Imbert told legislators that West, in his witness statement, "speaks to being approached by the Attorney General and told to rescind instructions given to the police to arrest Ferguson and Galbaransingh and to have nothing more to do with the extradition of those two gentlemen. That is what's in there."He claimed the motion was brought because the Government did not want the population to know the contents of West's witness statement.
The Government motion claimed Rowley had a duty to inform the Prime Minister before West's appointment that he was witness in the defamation matter brought by Ramlogan.It also claimed that Rowley was biased because he agreed to the PM's nomination of West for the PCA post. The law provides for the Prime Minister to consult with the Opposition Leader on the nomination for the PCA post.Imbert said all Rowley did was to agree to Persad-Bissessar's nomination.