Independent Senator Varma Deyalsingh yesterday described the Opposition’s declaration of war against all independent senators as “unfortunate.”
Deyalsingh said he reserved the right to vote according to his conscience and to respectfully disagree with the policies and opinions of both the Government and the Opposition.
The Opposition has been on the warpath since its motion to remove President Paula-Mae Weekes was defeated last Thursday, even targeting independent senators, whom they said could not be truly independent as they were nominated by President and therefore beholden to her.
The Opposition said this was the reason the Independent bench voted with the Government and against the motion.
But Deyalsingh yesterday dismissed this suggestion, saying, “If the Opposition Leader thought we would be biased because we were chosen by the President, she should have asked all of us to refrain from participating in the vote before the fact and not after we all voted not to support her motion.”
Independent Senator Anthony Vieira first spoke out against the attacks by the Opposition, noting that he was so offended by the attacks, which included the suggestion that the Independent Senators were “singing for their suppers,” he was planning to bring a motion of contempt against the offending Opposition members.
While the other independent senators have refused to comment on the issue, Deyalsingh yesterday said the Opposition had every “reason to question the collapse of the PSC and the present predicament we have found ourselves in.”
Deyalsingh said that as chairman of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Local Authorities, Service Commissions and Statutory Authorities, including the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), the PSC falls under his committees’ purview and the body has the responsibility to investigate the methods of PSC operations and report to Parliament.
“While ongoing court matters may serve to clarify and treat with some of the issues raised and at this present time our public deliberations may be sub judice, once the timing is right, the JSC would be able to get answers on how errors occurred and be able to suggest putting things in place to assist in preventing this unfortunate spectacle from reoccurring by giving recommendations on how the PSC can improve its performance and meet its mandate,” he said.
Deyalsingh said the Constitution gives the PSC this important mandate which serves to safeguard against any political interference in the process and we need to work towards achieving confidence.
“Each independent senator acts on his own,” he said.
“When we were appointed by the President, we had a one-off training session on ethics and behaviour in office. We are expected to take our oath seriously but we are not required to report to the President, nor toe any line. It is unfair to paint each Independent Senator with the same brush,” he said.
“I respect the role of the Opposition in our democratic society and hope instead of attacking us, we could work alongside each other for the benefit of our citizens.” Deyalsingh said the UNC was not wrong for challenging the state of the PSC.
“The daily murderous attacks on citizens with no substantive CoP is indeed an alarming situation, but we have seen this situation in the previous administration, when Stephen Williams acted as Commissioner of Police since 7th August 2012 after Dwayne Gibbs was forced to resign as CoP,” Deyalsingh said.
Deyalsingh said while the Opposition had every right to question the independence of some of the commissions, he recalled that under a different administration, a commissioner was appointed to a previous Elections and Boundaries Commission and that person had a brother who was as a minister of government.
“Some of these decisions have left patriotic citizens wanting more from the politicians who wield power,” he said.
Deyalsingh said even in a media release on February 16, former Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith had the opinion that Persad-Bissessar and an Opposition senator were “hypocrites and monsters.”
“If the Opposition thinks I have been ‘toeing the Government line’, I hope my contributions in the Senate would show a different picture,” Deyalsingh said.
“I take offence to any allegation of feeling ‘superior and looking down on the others’, as my service to the most discriminated in society, the mentally ill, will attest to the fact I try my best to serve these persons.”
He said former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday called independent senators ‘the parasitic oligarchy’ but he also said that politics had a morality of its own.
“Which may explain the behaviour of some politicians,” he said.
“I would like to mention I did not renew my contract with the NWRHA to be able to have the ability to independently point out the inefficiencies in the public health system. I sincerely miss my patients who I have been serving since 1989 and have developed strong bonds with,” Deyalsingh said.
“I don’t consider it parasitic behaviour to put myself in a position to lose both emotionally and financially.”
Deyalsingh said he has never even held a golf club like Panday did.
“In my Senate debate on the Budget, I called on the Minister of Finance to consider a one-off wealth tax which was also proposed by former USA President Obama to assist President Biden to achieve his fiscal policies. I don’t think an oligarch would have made such a suggestion,” he recalled.
On Monday, Deyalsingh’s colleague, Maria Dillon-Remy, also rubbished the suggestion that Independent Senators were beholden to the President.
Noting they do not report to the President, she said, “The President expects that we take our path seriously. I do.”
She said examines everything on its merit and always sought to do the best for the country.