House showdown over AG today
By SEAN DOUGLAS Friday, October 26 2012
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DR. KEITH ROWLEY...
EXPECT claims and counter-claims, plus a bombshell or two, as Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley, at 1.30 pm begins today’s Lower House debate on his censure/no-confidence motion in Attorney-General, Anand Ramlogan over the section 34 scandal.
Yesterday Rowley’s office e-mailed media houses a reminder of the debate, even as Minister of Communications, Jamal Mohammed, told the post-Cabinet news briefing that yesterday Government Ministers were “very excited” to be defending Ramlogan in the House.
The Opposition is gunning for Ramlogan whom they argue must share some blame for Section 34, in addition to fired former Justice Minister Herbert Volney.
The lead-up to today saw Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar host a sudden meeting of top Ministers at Cabinet’s “Boards Committee” at the Diplomatic Centre on Wednesday. With some Ministers staying until about 11.30 pm , according to Minister of National Security, Jack Warner, the meeting might also have seen some planning for today’s showdown.
Likewise, on the Opposition side the arrival of Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary in Trinidad last Tuesday — well ahead of Sunday’s PNM Annual Convention — might also signal high-level strategising for today’s debate. London yesterday dissolved the THA from today (to call fresh polls), opening the Opposition to jibes in today’s debate.
Opposition Chief Whip, Marlene Mc Donald, yesterday told Newsday that Government Chief Whip, Dr Roodal Moonilal, had advised her to tell her MPs, “to be prepared to eat doubles and drink Milo until two or three o’clock on Saturday morning.”
She said, “I spoke to the Leader of Government Business (Moonilal) and he said, ‘Yes, we can complete it, and bring it to closure on that day (today)’.”
“We have seven speakers and they have 15,” she said, of an informal deal struck with her and Moonilal. Mc Donald explained the sequence of how all 22 speakers will be allocated, saying, “He will put in two and I’ll send in one”. Newsday reckons if all 22 speakers each speak up to 75 minutes (full time and extra time) the debate could last 27 hours, and so stretch to about 5 pm on Saturday.
Mc Donald said because this is a censure debate, she’d be alert in case the Government tries to alter anything, but said they’d acted honourably by letting her talk in the Budget debate, while ill during the Budget debate.
But Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Brown told Newsday to expect ministerial statements, frequent interruptions and distractions from censure motion. Rowley’s motion hits Ramlogan on two fronts. Firstly, he says the AG is “responsible for the administration of legal affairs in Trinidad and Tobago,” alluding culpability for “section 34” simply as line Minister.
Also, Rowley is saying Ramlogan had “knowledge and/or participation”in the premature proclamation of section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill 2011 that gave an amnesty to defendants, such as two UNC financiers, Ishwar Galbransingh and Steven Ferguson. Rowley also said Ramlogan had not appealed Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh’s rejection of the extradition of Galbransingh and Ferguson had led to a loss of confidence in the UNC duo.
Rowley wants the House to chide Ramlogan for allegedly violating Parliament’s trust by the premature proclamation of section 34, and is calling on the Prime Minister to fire him.