Frightening Indeed. Mutiny maybe?
Posted: Monday, May 23, 2005
By Linda E. Edwards
The Leader of Government Business in the Trinidad House of Representatives has described as frightening, according to the newspapers, the Police Officers refusing to remove MP Sharma of Fyzabad from the house, at the Speaker's request.
Frightening indeed. It sounds like mutiny to me. They were disobeying a direct order, and so served in a collaborative role to Mr. Sharma's defiance of the Chair.
Does the Speaker have the right to request that police officers remove a member, when that member has twice been asked to remove himself, and has obviously refused?
The police officers are not there to determine right and wrong. It is not their business to decide whether the Speaker was right or wrong. He made a specific request of them, and they failed to comply with that request. Their Chief must ensure that this does not happen again.
Each of them should be re-assigned as early as Monday morning, and replaced with officers who will uphold the Chair in its ruling.
Mr. Sharma has boasted that the police could not remove him, according to one newspaper. The tone of that article seemed gleeful to me, in the same manner as the American news media's glee at the wedding plans of a former child predator, and school teacher Mary Kay Letorneau, and her former victim whom she seduced as a child and is now marrying after doing jail time for him. Both situations are disgusting. I am waiting to hear one editorial condemn either situation.
It was a boast of one member of the opposition that the UNC will make Trinidad and Tobago ungovernable. How were we to know that they would be helped in this nefarious scheme by police officers selected to do white jacketed duty in the House? Were Mr. Sharma's clothes dirty that they were afraid to touch him? Does he have some communicable disease that they would catch if two had put their hands on him, lifted him out of his seat gently, and walked him to the door? He looks quite healthy to me. Would Mr. Sharma have thrown punches? I doubt it.
Mr. Sharma may be following in the footsteps of that other disrespectful loudmouth whose brother sits on the opposite bench, who had to be asked top leave also, recently, but who had some shreds of respect for Parliament left, so he walked out. Mr. Sharma tried to upstage him, and seemed to be bragging about it. He completely disrespected the office he purports to hold as people's representative for Fyzabad.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago must be wondering what next. The soap opera that is Parliament can only get worse. But there is one thing the Police service can do, rotate those officers out of the Red House, and let them do street duty, wash the police cars or clean up after the animals of the Mounted Branch, so that next time, if they return to the Red House, they will understand that the speaker is their commanding officer in that building, when he is sitting in the Speakers chair, dressed in his robes of office, and Parliament is in session.
In such a position, he cannot abuse his office by asking them to go buy his wife's birthday present, or wash his personal car, but he can order them to remove an officer of the house, a sitting representative, when that representative has failed to comply with a legitimate request. The Speaker's authority is the only thing standing between order and chaos.
Now, since the days when my brother, my brother-in-law and my late best friend and back-watcher were police officers, I have maintained that re-training is necessary for policemen, if they are to continue to serve the country with integrity. This is one clear case of that need. Other officers must be making this the talk of the town, and will be watching to see what happens to this batch before they decide what to do. Well, they need to be disciplined as promptly as officer Sunil Tota-Maharaj was arrested in the shooting and subsequent death of that Point Fortin teenager. Supposing he had decided that his action was justified, and refused to go with those meaning to take him in. They would have had to take him down, as bad a possibility as could happen to police officers. I would say the mini-mutiny at the Red House falls into that same realm of possibility.
The officers should be made to note that if the Speaker gives an order, and it is not obeyed, and he gives it again, even the Prime Minister must stand down. The Prime Minister, whoever he is, must have enough sense not to provoke such action, but if he fails to, then he too should be removed from the House.
The Constitution may or may not be flawed, but it is the constitution we have. It has to work. End of story.
Now, when the House meets next time, people too, will be waiting to see the next installment of the soap opera.
The Chief of Police or his acting head needs to make sure that a spectacle does not occur.
For that, he needs a change of officers, beefed up staff and people who know what their job is and are prepared to do it when called upon.
Recently we saw on the international news the spectacle of fisticuffs being shared in a parliament elsewhere. Trinidad and Tobago must never descend into that dungheap. Mr. Sharma's antics have gone on long enough. Two others are in "hot water" with their party due to him. He must not continue to make a mockery of this situation, with the help of the police.
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