recognises the House of Representatives and the Senate as the supreme
fora for the conduct of the business of T&T. Today, most of us recognise
behavioural problems in the school population, road users, the public
service, law enforcement agencies, sport and even the church.
In fact, not too long ago, conventional religions preached that the penalty
for scandal was hanging a millstone around the neck of the guilty party
and hurling him or her into a well, hopefully with water.
These days our psychologists speak about adult exemplars, teaching by
example. But where is society to find such a thing in some plentiful
supply or to some degree which will impact favourably on the decline
in standards of politeness, courtesy, deportment and respect for one
The Chamber focuses on the Government and Opposition members of the Upper
and Lower Houses. In recent times, the very first session of the sittings,
we have witnessed first-hand President Baboolal using her casting vote
to buy more time for Minister Rennie Dumas to answer controversial questions
about salaries to WASAs chief executive officer and his assistants.
More recently, we have continued to witness televised clashes between
Senators Wade Mark and Danny Montano, Kelvin Ramnath and Speaker Barry
Sinanan, Senator Robin Montano and Senate President Baboolal.
The Chamber appeals first and foremost to the President of the Senate
and Speaker of the House to take charge of the proceedings which they
are supposed to chair. By take charge, we mean that the procedural rules,
if not, certainly universally accepted standards of decorum, provide
for debate, not insult, respect for the chair, not ridicule, and the
orderly conduct of the nations business, not a market. We therefore
call upon the chairmen to exercise their powers in such a manner to ensure
that exemplary behaviour is what emanates from the parliamentary chambers.
To all those who are supposed to grace the latter, but are scurrilous
and disorderly within the precincts of the House, the Chamber reminds
them of the need to discharge their sacred responsibilities to those
who elected or nominated them to the fora, to do so responsibly and courteously.
Let not the weight of presidential or the Speakers powers have
to compel your adherence to acceptable standards of behaviour.
The Chamber suspects that the Opposition will contend that any indiscretions
have been propelled by an enthusiasm to insist on fairness, to criticise
bias in the application of the rules of engagement and to convince those
they represent, that they do so fearlessly and with conviction.
We have no quarrel with this, provided it is in the interest of the common
good and executed tastefully.
We have already written in this column about the Oppositions unfortunate
decision against supporting the Kidnapping Bill resulting in the dilution
or elimination of provisions which strike at the very evil of this crime,
all in the name of constitutional reform or Caroni Ltd, or, perhaps,
discrimination of one kind or another.
The Chamber advocates that although the Government is elected to manage
the country, the role of the Opposition is to ensure that a balance in
that management is achieved, in the interest of the common good, by constructively
reviewing, discussing in debate and arriving at consensus, wherever possible,
in serving such an interest.
Not only must the contributions by the Opposition be civil in presentation,
but they must faithfully and genuinely represent the views of all their
constituents, whether supporters or not. This goes for the Members of
Parliament who belong to the ruling party as well.
The risk that this negative attitude of the Opposition poses is that
sooner rather than later, Prime Minister Manning and his other parliamentary
colleagues may begin to table proposed legislation of a type which will
completely ignore the concerns of anyone else but members of the PNM
and about which leadership Mr Panday and his MPs frequently denounce
in public as a dictatorship and disrespectful of the rule of law.
While the Leader of the Opposition and his MPs may not be elected to
make the Government look good, as they seem to believe, the Chamber is
of the opinion that all who sit in the Senate and Lower House must represent
the collective interests of every single elector. One of them is crime
and what it takes to address this scourge.
The strategy to double deal, obstruct and offend those moving forward
with the parliamentary agenda has no place in a developing country faced
with challenges that require a collective, constructive approach to address
The Chamber urges both political parties to restore, maintain, preserve
and respect the dignity of Parliament and conduct the affairs of the
people in a manner which will be exemplary to all who reside here, particularly
the impressionable minds of youth.
To the Opposition, we encourage its members to be positive, constructive
and productive with the trust of all they were elected to represent.