Speaker claims MP Tancoo misrepresented her, warns of consequences

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Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Brigid Annisette-George –

SPEAKER Bridgid Annisette-George on Friday alleged Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo had misrepresented her past words in the House when he addressed a subsequent news briefing, as she warned this could amount to a contempt of Parliament, in a statement in the House of Representatives.

She said that on November 4, Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein’s motion for MPs to debate crime as a definite matter of urgent public importance had not qualified (under standing order 17), but she noted that a full debate on crime was now occurring as moved in Hosein’s private motion.

The Speaker said no MP was new to the House and so all should know the rules.

She said any interruption of House business to debate a definite matter of urgent public importance must fulfil all requirements of being definite, urgent and of public importance.

“While a member’s opinion on whether a matter requires an immediate debate is subjective, the Speaker, however, relies on well-established dispassionate rules in arriving at a decision.

“A matter might be definite and it might be of public importance, but unless it has suddenly arisen, it cannot and will not qualify, and even when others have occupied this Chair, such matter did not qualify.”

She said some MPs ignore the use of another standing order for a full debate, ventilation and resolution of the issue.

“For example, we are here today for a full six-hour debate on crime.

“Yet, some members will misrepresent the procedures and decisions of this Chair and seek to mislead the public into thinking that a one-hour truncated debate – which calls on the House to make no decision and was designed to get urgent responses to an issue that has suddenly arisen – is preferred over a full-scale debate.”

Annisette-George appreciated that MPs wanted to highlight their constituents’ concerns, but said no MP should misrepresent her decisions and the House’s proceedings and procedures.

“It is also not your right to represent as quotes words which have not been uttered by the Chair.”

Annisette-George said Hosein had five years as a senator plus three years as an MP, to gain parliamentary expertise, so should have known to raise crime for a full debate under standing order 35, not an urgent debate under standing order 17.

Chiding Tancoo’s remarks at a recent news briefing, she said, “It was therefore rather disturbing that in the mind of the Member for Oropouche West, the matter not qualifying to be raised under Standing Order 17, translates to the ‘Speaker says no! Crime was not important. Crime was not sufficiently important to warrant a debate.’”

“While the Chair harbours no naiveté that in today’s society, the holder of the Office of Speaker will be entirely insulated from criticism, when a member deliberately spreads misinformation about the rules, practice and proceedings of this House and adopts and publishes the statement of an uninformed member of the public, then such action is not in keeping with the rules and the dignity of this House and should be denounced by all members of this House.

“Such conduct can only be construed as a misguided attempt to mislead the records of this House and bring this House and the Chair of this House into public odium and disrepute.”

Acts which bring the House into public odium and disrepute can amount to a contempt of the House for which there can be consequences, she said.

“Additionally, honourable members, this Chair will object and call to order any member who seeks to bring the Chair into the political arena and into public derision by saying things which this Chair has not said.

“The Member for Oropouche West and all honourable members are kindly urged in the future, to exercise more care and regard for the dignity of this House, the institution of Parliament and the offices of this institution. Please be guided.”

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