PNM MP Keith Rowley is alleging that Attorney General John Jeremie told "untruths" about him in Parliament on Monday and that other PNM MPs also attempted to portray him in "an unfavourable light" that day. Rowley dismissed the accusations against him by several of his former Cabinet colleagues during the Lower House debate on Government's property tax. He had been critical of the tax and Government's modus operandi when he made his contribution to the debate last Friday night. When debate resumed on Monday, Legal Affairs Minister Peter Taylor, PNM House Leader Colm Imbert, Attorney General John Jeremie and Information Minister Neil Parsanlal took Rowley to task.
Finance Minister Karen Tesheira, in winding up the debate, also noted several times that criticisms had been levelled against the bill, not only by the Opposition, "but by one of our own." Tesheira also said Rowley, more than other PNM MPs, should be acquainted with Government's track record, especially on housing, since he had been Housing Minister. Imbert and Jeremie said Rowley had attended PNM's December 7 caucus, where Parliamentary matters were planned and had not indicated he would oppose the bill. They said he had given assurances he would support it. Jeremie said he was in "horror" and "appalled" at what took place. Before the debate Prime Minister Patrick Manning had also told reporters at a news conference that Rowley's response on the bill has been "emotive and designed to promote an emotional response" and the Government had intended to "deal with that" later in that day's debate.
Manning had stressed the PNM had rules, regulations and disciplinary procedures and if those were transgressed, there also were rules to deal with that. However, Rowley explained yesterday he had made his position clear when the PNM's caucus met. Rowley said: "In the caucus where they selected speakers on the bill, I was not a speaker selected, but I said I would be making an intervention – that was clear." He said: "The Finance Minister asked if I would be supporting the bill and I said I didn't know since I had not seen the bill and I couldn't say if I was supporting it as I hadn't seen it." Rowley said when he came to the Parliament last Friday and spoke to PNM House Leader Imbert about his speaking in debate, Imbert offered him a "package" from which to speak. He added: "I declined that offer of a package because for 23 years I've been speaking in Parliament without a package and I didn't need it."
Rowley alleged that Jeremie was not truthful in his statements about him. He added: "He (Jeremie) knows nothing about any arrangement as I made no arrangement. But, all of this is yet another attempt to portray me in an unfavourable light and it is consistent with their objective," Asked about the possibility of facing PNM disciplinary procedures or expulsion for his statements, Rowley said: "I rest my concerns in the PNM's constitution and its disciplinary procedures as they are there for all of us and not for me alone. I hope we will all abide by it." "However," Imbert said, "Dr Rowley was duty-bound to inform PNM's caucus if he intended to attack the Government and oppose PNM legislation. "Dr Rowley personally told me that he was supporting the legislation."
PNM chairman, Conrad Enill, had not attended the PNM's December 7 caucus on the bill since he was in Qatar. However, Enill said if Rowley indeed was sounding more and more like the Opposition MPs, as Imbert and Parsanlal claimed "then the party will deal with it." As of now, Enill said , no complaint regarding Rowley was before the PNM. "But if there is sufficient information to suggest that Dr Rowley was behaving in breach of the party constitution, it will be dealt with –the PNM is a party of discipline and we expect our members to be bounded by the party's rules," Enill added.