If deputy House Speaker Esmond Forde’s had an easy time presiding over the Lower House in recent months, yesterday’s sitting shoved him into overdrive in disciplining MPs.
UNC and PNM MPs were busy verbally fighting each other regarding UNC MP Roodal Moonilal’s motion on House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George. The UNC tried to slam-dunk her into ignominy. But the ruling PNM praised her tenure to the rooftops.
“…Overruled!” Forde admonished on umpteen attempts by UNC and PNM MPs taking turns trying to shut the other side down as their MPs spoke.
In between, Forde reached liberally for “... Retract!” and “Expunge …” orders.
Raging tones. Loud voices. Strenuous arguments. All kinds of rules quoted as MPs traded words.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley tried to verbally shred Moonilal’s motion, attributing the UNC gusto to wanting to save their candidacy chances.
“This is the B team, All a dem…. guaranteed gone! Except (him),” Rowley thundered, pointing at UNC’s David Lee.
“Look at your team …” retorted UNC’s Tim Gopeesingh, whose argument may not have been limited to issues concerning PNM’s PoS South and D’Abadie O’Meara candidates.
The debate demonstrated that nobody’s waiting for any election bell, whether that’s in two weeks when Parliament begins the recess, or after. Speculation on dates continued after PNM officials met with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) yesterday.
But the season’s clear: community centre openings (PNM), drain cleaning photo ops (UNC). And new parties being announced (Mikela Panday’s Patriotic Front).
Moonilal’s motion sought to revive the alleged Paria/Venezuela fuel issue after US Ambassador Joseph Mondello’s commendation of T&T’s Venezuelan refugee management. Commendation apart, information received yesterday confirm T&T’s issues with the US are still live, if not front burner.
There was also Finance’s Colm Imbert attempt to overcome doubts on his recent overly optimistic mid-year review, boasting of an oversubscribed US$500m bond in record three hours.
Government also benefitted from full Opposition and Independent Senators’ support for its anti-Domestic Violence bill. The legislation positively spotlighted the profile of its presenter, Gender Affairs Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy. This, at a time when reports from her Tobago East area show PNM striving to improve its standing in a make-or-break election battleground.
Concerns also linger in some PNM areas about vote withholding due to candidacy, representation, unemployment and other issues. If the PNM’s pre-poll image is drooping it’s mainly due to internal issues more than Opposition efficiency. Reflecting on party management.
The landscape otherwise:
• Outgoing San Juan MP Fuad Khan assisting candidate Saddam Hosein, believe it’s possible for Hosein to hold the seat which Khan won by 550 votes. As for impact on resident Muslims regarding the alleged smear over Hosein’s lifestyle, “They’ll have to make their own judgement, but I don’t think it’ll affect us,” Khan said.
• PNM’s introduction of its Toco candidate was highlighted Thursday by a “bounce-up in Valencia with opposition supporters.
• In a week where the Domestic Violence bill figured, UNC officials say a recently-announced young candidate facing issues because of alleged photos will tell her story of an alleged abusive relationship. They said she has backing of certain corporation and labour members. They expect no backlash from her situation, noting AG Faris Al-Rawi’s December 2019 blast against social media posts following circulation of alleged photos of UNC Chaguanas mayor Vandana Mohit.
• San Fernando West’s increasingly busy with PNM’s Al-Rawi and UNC Sean Sobers’ walkabouts.
• PNM’s La Brea unit says many have “come around” after problematic selection process. A meeting was held yesterday with some still toting residual discontent. Former favourite Robert Le Hunte says he’s tried assisting toward peace.
• Speculation on whether former UNC Panday ministers—who attended Basdeo Panday’s February meeting—will assist Patriotic Front’s campaigning and if this could impact.
While PNM’s new faces—including Penny Beckles’ return—has prompted succession planning debate, the extent of changes among UNC MPs will reveal the depth of succession planning there. On Thursday the UNC leader reinforced the need for a new generation. The appointment of businessman Robert Amar as a senator, also prompted speculation whether—if UNC’s MPs may be largely new —it is possible that UNC government ministers may be senators. And whether this may include former MPs.
Whatever changes may be immediately ahead, more will certainly follow.