Approximately six weeks before the end of the Parliamentary term, Opposition People's National Movement (PNM) leader Dr Keith Rowley was last night suspended from the Parliament's service for the rest of the term, via majority Government vote.Independent Liberal Party (ILP) MP Jack Warner was the lone voice voting against the historic move, in the face of 24 People's Partnership (PP) votes in favour of suspending Rowley.
The situation has prompted the PNM to call an emergency general council meeting at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, at 3 pm today, the party said last night.House Speaker Wade Mark announced the results of the vote at 9.15 pm following the debate, which began at 1.30 pm yesterday on Government's motion of censure against Rowley – and the bid to suspend him over the presentation of e-mails which he had made in May 2013.
Two years after the event, Mark last night said, "Diego Martin West MP and leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley, is suspended from the service of this House for the remainder of the term, approved by majority vote of the House."The e-mails alleged that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and senior members of her Cabinet were involved in a multi-pronged "conspiracy" on the Section 34 issue, including a plot to "harm" a reporter and bug the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Parliamentary term ends on June 17.PP House leader Dr Roodal Moonilal, in concluding debate, declared,"This is a landmark day...If you lie you must also say goodbye – he (Rowley) is the maker of his own destiny."None of the 11 PNM MPs, who had been present earlier when debate began, were present for the vote, since they had walked out of the Parliament chamber just before 4 pm after PNM's Colm Imbert had spoken against the motion. Other MPs Patrick Manning and Joanne Thomas were absent from the session.
Moonilal, who earlier presented a number of opinions from local and international experts who had adjudged the e-mails as fake, said the PP would take the issue to the public – from next week in Diego Martin – and the national community must judge Rowley. He said Rowley would have to defend himself.
"The truth will chase him all over ... PNM Tobago Leader Orville London had said that at the end of this issue there would be one man or woman left standing and there is indeed one woman left standing tonight – but he's (Rowley) not here, he left kicking and screaming as if he knew this would be the last time he'd be in Parliament," Moonilal added.Rather than defend Rowley, he said PNM MPs had left the chamber and gone to the Parliament snack hall.
Moonilal reminded Warner that Rowley's first act as Opposition Leader was to call for the Prime Minister to remove him (Warner) from Cabinet due his international issues with FIFA and that the PM and the Cabinet had supported Warner. He called on the national community to consider what Rowley would do as prime minister if people disagreed with his policies and how he would handle criticism, which is a daily part of a prime minister's life.
"Will he flee to the golf course? It's a poor sign of leadership - fleeing. In leaving the Parliament, which was a disrespect to the Parliament and the people who elected MPs to debate issues in the Parliament, he stood by the e-mails," Moonilal said.
Report read into Hansard
Persad-Bissessar, who spoke just before debate ended, said Imbert had not defended Rowley on the email issue. She outlined Parliament regulations regarding the motion, saying the PP had given the PNM ample notice. She noted that former United National Congress leader Basdeo Panday and UNC MP Chandresh Sharma had both been suspended from the Parliament without procedural fairness.
She said the Government had shown there was no truth in the fake emails and detailed police findings on some aspects of the alleged emails. This included a police report that confirmed there was no bugging device in the DPP's office.PP MP Tim Gopeesingh, in debate, called for Rowley to resign as Opposition leader and from the Diego Martin West seat also. He warned the public that the PNM would put a flood of misinformation into the public domain from now.
Absent for the vote were PP MPs Winston Dookeran and Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. The former was absent for the day and the latter had attended earlier, but wasn't there for the vote.Parliament continues tomorrow at 1.30 pm.