Former prime minister Basdeo Panday says Monday's suspension of San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning was "oppressive and archaic."He described the suspension, which took immediate effect, as not in keeping with the democratic traditions of a developing nation.He said the decision would heighten tensions across the nation.Manning was suspended for making allegations about the cost and means of financing the private residence of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar during a debate in Parliament last year.Following an eight-hour debate in the House of Representatives on Monday, the Government secured passage of the motion by a vote of 25 to 9.Panday renewed his call for the Standing Orders, which governs the business of the House, to be significantly amended.
He said the 60-year-old rules were "totally out of date and inconsistent with the needs of a developing country like T&T."Panday said the former PNM government used those same rules "in a most brutal fashion to silence the then Opposition." However, Panday said he did not share the view the current Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration should do the same.He added: "I do not think that is a good enough reason for the present Government to try to silence the present Opposition."He said the rules should have been interpreted "in a modern, democratic manner."Panday said instead of suspending Manning for his allegations, Persad-Bissessar should have provided the information in Parliament.
"All she had to do was state the real cost of the house and how she financed it. That is all and that would have been in keeping with the democratic traditions," Panday said.He said people must be allowed to speak in Parliament. He then criticised House Speaker Wade Mark, saying he was "singing too loud for his supper."Panday said the suspension of Manning was like a sentence. He said the Government was sending a message that people should not feel free to speak in Parliament.He said the suspension was likely to end when Parliament was prorogued in about four weeks.Panday was suspended from Parliament in March 2008, after failing to heed an order from then Speaker Barry Sinanan to stop using his laptop computer during a sitting of the House.