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Tea room report

It is more than a little curious that the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) is trying to delay debate on the so-called "tea room brawl." The report of the Privileges Committee, which was supposed to be laid in Parliament last Wednesday, was put off by Speaker Barry Sinanan because the UNC submitted that the matter was sub judice. With the Committee's decision having gone against him, Fyzabad MP Chandresh Sharma has brought civil and criminal proceedings against Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley. Or so Mr Sharma says. Dr Rowley, however, says he has not received any writ.

This makes the matter even curiouser, as Alice said just before following the White Rabbit into Wonderland. After all, it was the UNC which decided to make the tea room incident a cause celebre. For weeks they proclaimed that their colleague had been physically attacked by a rampaging Rowley, who had pelted a remote, a cell phone, and a teacup at the hapless Sharma. Mr Sharma, after sitting quietly through the Lower House's afternoon session subsequent to this violence being committed on his person, then went to a medical doctor who gave him a certificate saying Mr Sharma had suffered "soft tissue damage" somewhere in the region of his head.

And so the matter went to the Privileges Committee. Both Government and Opposition MPs heard testimony from the Honourable Members who were present, as well as the Parliament's tea room lady. And so important did the UNC consider this issue that, when the decision went against Sharma, the party sacrificed Gillian Lucky, one of its more dynamic younger members, because she put her signature to the report. And yet, after all that brouhaha, the UNC has not moved with the utmost despatch to bring criminal and civil proceedings against Dr Rowley. Speaker Sinanan does not have to decide if the sub judice rule applies to a matter before the courts he has to decide if it applies to a matter still to be brought before the courts.

In presenting his argument to the Speaker, Chief Whip Ganga Singh argued that, "Parliament must not be a forum for the settlement of disputes." Which, as Alice might say, is the curiousest statement of all. After all, the whole point of the Privileges Committee's exercise was to settle this dispute. And why shouldn't the UNC take the route of parliamentary debate rather than legal proceedings?

After all, the party through its loudest Senator, Robin Montano, has already begun touting the line that the Committee's decision was politically biased and, indeed, that the statements of the PNM MPs in the report show this. If this is indeed so, the UNC should be straining at the leash to reveal the report's contents to the general public. But the Opposition, in its wisdom, has obviously decided that this is not the best approach for them. Whichever way the Speaker rules, then, we presume that the legal proceedings will be going forward. And we, along with other citizens, certainly look forward to the court's take on this storm in a teacup.

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Tea room report
UNC too ashamed
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