On Thursday, Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George presided over an extraordinary sitting of the House, followed by a meeting of the Electoral College to deal with an impeachement motion to remove President Paula-Mae Weekes.
Although this impeachment motion filed by the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) to set up a tribunal to investigate the removal of Weekes was defeated in Parliament—24 voted for and 47 voted against—there is the possibility that the Opposition may mobilise support from the man on the street or grassroots supporters for further action, according to criminologist Prof Ramesh Deosaran.
He explained that this grassroots support would include support from taxi drivers, people in the market and the working class in general.
Two weeks ago, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said a constitutional motion would be filed seeking the removal of Weekes, alleging that she was politically influenced in the selection process of a Police Commissioner after a visit from a high office-holder and therefore unfit to continue as President.
Prof Ramesh Deosaran
At a media conference at her Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, office later on Thursday, Persad-Bissessar described the failure of the motion as an "attack on democracy" and warned that if it were left unchecked, T&T’s institutions would be vulnerable to political interference.
She added that her party would continue to raise the issue even after its defeat in Parliament and would start with an "October Revolution."
Persad-Bissessar said among her party's next plans is a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
“Whatever the technicalities or Dr Keith Rowley’s complaint of ‘disgrace and reprehensive behaviour’ over Opposition Leader’s impeachment motion in last week’s special sitting, there is space in the Constitution (Sections 35-36) and the Standing Orders for Ms Kamla Persad-Bissessar to threaten that ‘it is not over yet’ with an ‘October Revolution’ in store,” Deosaran said in an email to the Sunday Guardian.
According to Deosaran, the Opposition Leader claims that the Speaker as Electoral College chairperson had some “discretion” to accommodate a debate and that the Parliament Standing Orders, as “regulations” for the constitutional provisions were not clear about the restrictions placed in the Speaker’s guidelines.
“By she and her UNC supporters using words like ‘war on democracy’, ‘democracy is dead’, etc, some street support and grassroot support will be gathered. The repeated interventions by UNC MPs and senators inserted a tactical kind of ‘backdoor debate’ in the session. UNC senators claimed they were invited to vote on a motion they ‘did not hear’. As a cure, maybe a tv screen should have been placed in the Senate chamber to ‘hear’ simultaneously Ms Persad-Bissessar’s motion.”
He said the Speaker took a conservative approach in handling the motion, but as evidenced during and after the debate, notwithstanding the 47-24 result, the UNC saw the motion and quarrelsome exchanges at the special sitting as matters being about politics and democracy beyond law and the Standing Orders.
“No doubt, and despite the Speaker’s reliance on the prescribed rules, the UNC will exploit the procedural spaces as a vehicle for political mobilisation.
"Was this a ‘Day of Bacchanal’ or a ‘Day when democracy died’? Deosaran asked. As with such matters, he said, “the public will judge.”
THURSDAY OCTOBER 21, 2021: 10:30 AM
For the purpose of section 36(1)(a) and (b) of the Constitution
MOTION PURSUANT TO SECTION 36 OF THE CONSTITUTION
1. WHEREAS section 35 of the Constitution provides that the President may be removed under section 36 from office where she–
(a) willfully violates any provision of the Constitution; and/or
(b) behaves in such a way as to bring her office into hatred, ridicule or contempt and/or
(c) behaves in a way that endangers the security of the State.
AND WHEREAS there have been unrefuted reports: a) of recent events at President’s House of interference in the selection processes undertaken by the Police Service Commission (“PSC”); and b) that a list of nominees for Commissioner of Police prepared by the PSC was recently submitted to The President and she refused to notify the House of these nominees.
AND WHEREAS The President has neglected to publicly address those reports and has otherwise failed to faithfully execute her several duties under the Constitution.
AND WHEREAS in the circumstances, The President should be removed from office since she: (a) willfully violated the provisions of the Constitution securing the independence of the PSC in the performance of its functions and also willfully violated section 123 of the Constitution;
(b) behaved in such a way as to bring her office into hatred, ridicule or contempt by interfering and/or facilitating interference with the PSC and also by proceeding in the circumstances to appoint new members of the PSC;
c) behaved in a way that has resulted in the endangerment of the security of the State through her inactions and/failure and/or neglect to act; and (d) has otherwise failed and/or neglected to execute her duties under the Constitution.
BE IT NOW RESOLVED THAT pursuant to section 36 of the Constitution, a Tribunal be established to investigate the removal of Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes, ORTT from the Office of the President.
(By the Leader of the Opposition)
Leader of the Opposition (Member for Siparia)
Member for Barataria/San Juan Member for Caroni Central
Member for Chaguanas West
Member for Couva North
Member for Couva South
Member for Cumuto/Manzanilla
Member for Fyzabad
Member for Naparima
Member for Oropouhe East
Member for Oropouche West
Member for Caroni East
Member for Chaguanas East
Member for Pointe-a-Pierre
Member for Princes Town
Member for Moruga/Tableland
Member for St. Augustine
Member for Tabaquite
Member for Mayaro
Jacqui Sampson-Meiguel Clerk of the House
House of Representatives’ Secretariat
Red House Abercromby Street
PORT-OF-SPAIN October 18, 2021