By Michael Harris
May 11, 2015 – trinidadexpress.com
It is a total abuse of power because in the absence of any final report of the investigation into the e-mail affair from the police or the Integrity Commission the UNC Government went to the Parliament and, acting as investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner all at the same time, used its majority first to censure the Leader of the Opposition and then to banish him from the Parliament for the rest of this term.
It is a denigration of our Parliament since the UNC has used the Parliament to continue its election campaign strategy of vilifying and demonising Dr Rowley. They have seamlessly, without pause or hesitation, taken that strategy from the Monday night forums into the halls of Parliament, reducing the latter to a mere instrument of their campaign.
It is a threat to our democracy because if a government could legally use its majority to remove the leader of the opposition from the parliament then it could also do the same to every opposition member of parliament, thereby not only frustrating the will of the people who elected those MPs but effectively instituting a one-party state.
Let us be clear. Two years ago Dr Rowley took a serious risk when he brought to Parliament a series of e-mails which raised frightening allegations of serious and criminal misconduct in public office. And, as I wrote in this column then, “no government implicated by authenticated evidence of such crimes should be allowed to remain in office.”
But I also went on to say that “if the e-mails are demonstrated to be fabrications then there can be no question that Dr Rowley should immediately resign as Leader of the Opposition, as political leader of the PNM and indeed from Parliament itself. For it would have been an act of colossal irresponsibility and contempt of Parliament and of country to have brought such allegations into the public domain without demonstrating that he had sought to conduct the requisite due diligence with regard to the verification of their authenticity.”
So that it is not the fact that Dr Rowley has been suspended which is the problem. The problem is the fact that this UNC Government took it upon itself, knowingly and deliberately, in the absence of any “authenticated evidence” one way or the other, to summarily condemn and convict Dr Rowley on the basis only of its own majority.
Since she and her Government took their action the Prime Minister has been desperately seeking to justify the unjustifiable. First she was at pains to try to show that the Government was acting within the Standing Orders. She quoted Standing Order 55 (16) which states that “Nothing in this standing order shall be taken to deprive the House of the power of proceeding against any member, according to any resolution of the House”.
But neither 55 (16) nor any other Standing Order of the House could give legitimacy to a government proceeding against a member simply on the basis of its own allegations and in the absence of any “authenticated evidence” from a non-partisan investigative agency. That is what makes it a total abuse of power.
The Prime Minister’s next attempt at a justification was even more ridiculous and demonstrative of this Government’s contempt for the concepts of legality and due process. She is on record as stating that “she could not await the conclusion of police investigations into suspended Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s Emailgate claim before acting to clear her and other cabinet ministers’ names. She said it was critical that she do so now as the Parliament was close to dissolving.”
Such a statement absolutely boggles the imagination. She “could not wait on the conclusion of police investigations” so she went ahead and used her majority to convict Dr Rowley. That in itself is a statement worthy of its own censure. In all these particulars this UNC Government has once again demonstrated how utterly venal and fundamentally corrupt it is.
But the fact that the Government “could not wait for the conclusion of police investigations” also reveals a sense of desperation in their ranks. After the Vernella Alleyne-Toppin fiasco their campaign strategy of demonising Dr Rowley must have taken a serious blow and now they are desperately trying to get it back on the rails again.
But to have resorted to such a fundamentally anti-democratic and totalitarian stratagem would suggest that their internal polls are telling them that the writing is on the wall. Their removal from office cannot happen soon enough for they are now a clear and present danger to our democracy.