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Prayers and bad behaviour in the House

By Ria Taitt Newsday

On the second (and final) day of 'crisis' in the Parliament, it seemed to have dawned fully on Parliamentarians that without a Speaker they had permission to completely mash up the place. And so they did.

In the middle of all the misbehaviour the strangest thing happened. All 36 MPs rose to pray.

It happened just before the Clerk, Jacqui Sampson-Jacent took the vote on the first two candidates to be proposed. PNM's Hedwidge Bereaux said that having observed the proceedings, he felt the House should stand and say a prayer. "Almighty God, we give thanks to you and humbly beseech you to direct our deliberations..." he began, causing all 36 members to stand and bow their heads obediently. The prayer is usually recited by the Speaker at the start of every sitting. Panday was the first to say "Amen". "You are a good candidate for Speaker," a jovial Subhas told Bereaux. "That's the best contribution you ever made here boy!," Gypsy chimed in, as he took his seat.

Before and after this prayer MPs traded words freely and the House degenerated to quote Keith Rowley into the "theatre of the absurd".

The usually staid PNM MP Martin Joseph started off in his conservative manner, but then somehow descended into the ridiculous. Joseph, in appealing to Carlos John and Gerald Yetming to act with decency, claimed that his 80-year-old mother also asked him about these two MPs, saying this: "I wonder if Panday pee in their mouth?". “Don't lie on yuh mother!" Nariva MP Harry Partap shot back. John, who was reading, leaned forward, but kept his eyes on the newspaper, while Yetming stared calmly at Joseph.

"Is not Panday (who pee in their mouth)!" Keith Rowley offered. Joseph also claimed that a former UNC minister told him that the PNM was stupid for not engaging in corruption, in the way the UNC did. "Allyuh stupid...Where the cow tie, it must graze," Joseph quoted the former minister as saying.

Joseph said the beginning of the "slide" in public morality began when the UNC put up persons who were defeated at the polls for the position of Speaker.

Joseph stated that if the PNM had found itself in the position of the UNC, a Speaker would have been elected "a long time ago". "Ole talk, ole talk" Chaguanas MP, Manohar Ramsaran chanted.

The free-for-all continued throughout the session. In fact when Manohar Ramsaran beckoned Jarrette Narine, who was on his legs, to give way so that he (Ramsaran) could make a point, Narine asked: "Are you dumb?. Like you don't understand what happen since yesterday or what? I don't have to sit down for you to get up and speak. If you want to get up, get up!"

In the melee, Narine also clashed with Winston "Gypsy" Peters. "I stop paying to hear a man sing little black boy and then hear him say 'We time now' and give black people pressure", Narette told Peters.

Peters got back at the PNM good when Eundine Job, a newcomer to the House, was speaking after she had proposed Wilbert Winchester.

"When people can strategise to hold a country to ransom. When people can incite a nation to violence..." Job said with passion.

"When people purport to have a majority and can't prove it," Peters finished.

Peters, who is a master at picong, gave Job a hard time. Turning on his mike, he kept calling on her to obey the standing orders (which require MPs not to debate their proposals for the election of the Speaker). "Today everybody could take because everybody is a Speaker," he said. During Rowley's contribution there was chaos as he faced a barrage of criticisms for allowing his party to nominate Marjorie Thorpe even though he knew she didn't give her permission. Rowley stated that he spoke to Thorpe "minutes before" entering the chamber and it was then she informed him that she did not want her name put forward. "I have no difficulty in putting on record the PNM's apologies to Dr Thorpe", he said. But members of the Opposition were not forgiving. And it quickly turned into a shouting match.

By 4.15 the Clerk in almost pleading tones, stated: "Let's take a break, please". By then everyone had had enough. It was abundantly clear. MPs just couldn't be left to their own devices.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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