By CECILY ASSON Monday, March 11 2013
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Minister of National Security Jack Warner...
THE National Council of the Congress of the People (COP) yesterday demanded that Minister of National Security Jack Warner “withdraw” and “issue a public apology” to attorney Vernon de Lima SC for statements he made against de Lima during his contribution to the debate on the Defence (Amendment) Bill 2013 in Parliament on Friday.
During a heated debate which saw Diego Martin Central MP Amery Browne ejected from the House by Speaker Wade Mark for three hours, it was reported that Warner accused de Lima of being present at a meeting held at the house of a person named George Bell in which a plot was being hatched to kill Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Warner told Parliament: “The meeting was held at the home of George Bell. George Bell is not a COP. Vernon de Lima was a former member of COP. He was there.” Following Warner’s statements, de Lima wrote COP Political Leader Prakash Ramadhar and the party distancing himself from what was revealed in Parliament.
At the meeting yesterday, the National Council also took offence to Warner’s claim that de Lima “was a former member” and made it quite clear that the former Deputy Chairman of COP remains a committed member to the party.
Expressing concern with Warner’s statement in the House, which the party said, “if left unattended would impugn the integrity of not only Mr de Lima but also the COP,” members passed a resolution yesterday calling for Warner to issue an apology and for a correction to the statements in the Hansard during the national council meeting yesterday at the Operations Centre, in Charlieville.
Part of the resolution by the COP’s National Council read: “And whereas these statement have been ascribed to Mr Austin Jack Warner, Minister of National Security during a sitting of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago on March 8, 2013 and whereas these statement if left unattended would impugn the integrity of not only Mr de Lima but also the Congress of the People
“Be it resolved that this National Council call upon the said Minister to publicly withdraw such statements made in the House of Representatives on Friday March 8 and that the Minister issue a public apology to Mr Vernon de Lima SC.
Yesterday, Ramadhar said the party thought it necessary that the “injustice of Warner’s statement be dealt with.” To that end, Ramadhar added, “I have undertaken to forward to the Speaker of the House to ensure that a correction is made to that grave error that occurred Friday last in our Parliament.”
Asked what action would be taken by the COP if Warner does not apologise, Ramadhar said he is hopeful the right thing will be done by Warner, who is also the UNC’s chairman.
“I am very optimistic. I have to live in optimism and hope that where a wrong is clear, the right thing to do, is the right thing to do. First thing we shall take to the Speaker is a request for a correction to be put on the official record of our Parliament, the Hansard. I cannot speak for the minister, Mr Warner, as to what he will do in relation to an apology.”
Pressed further for a direct answer on the issue, Ramadhar would only say: “There are options available to us, but I say this, the leadership of this party, when we take serious and important decisions, we always come back to the national council. There are consequences to any action.”
Efforts to contact Minister Warner and his advisor Francis Joseph on the matter were unsuccessful.