Friday 17th September, 2004


Tea room clash

Rowley cries conspiracy

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Keith Rowley


Housing Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday if he had struck Fzyabad MP Chandresh Sharma, the mark from the blow would not be where the Opposition member claimed he had been hit.

On Wednesday, UNC MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Sharma was warded at Port-of-Spain General Hospital after Rowley allegedly shoved Sharma during a heated verbal exchange between the two.

Persad-Bissessar also claimed Rowley threw a teacup, a cordless phone and a remote control at Sharma.

During yesterday’s post-Cabinet press conference at Whitehall, Rowley acknowledged he and Sharma had a heated verbal exchange in the Parliament tea room on Wednesday afternoon, but denied hitting or throwing a teacup at Sharma.

He said if Sharma was, in fact, hospitalised, he was not responsible.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that during the verbal exchange with Mr Sharma yesterday, no blows passed between us. He did not strike me and I did not strike him.

“I saw a picture in the newspapers ...with MP Sharma pointing to the right side of his face, showing where he was struck by a teacup. I did not throw the teacup.

“I didn’t. He broke the government teacup. I’m a right-hander. If I had, in fact, hit MP Sharma in his face, he will not be pointing at that side of his face.”

Speaking calmly, Rowley said he would seek legal advice on whether he had been slandered by Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Chief Whip Ganga Singh, who said the Government had gone from verbal to physical abuse.

He said he would also contact Speaker Barry Sinanan for adjudication on parliamentary privilege concerning the verbal exchange he had with Sharma.

Sinanan, speaking after the opening of the law term yesterday, said he was very concerned about the incident and would deal with the matter, should it be raised before him in Parliament today.

He said he had tried to contact Sharma, but calls to his cellphone went unanswered.

Rowley said it was Sharma who verbally abused and threatened him with physical violence and broke the teacup.

He said their verbal exchange began at around 1 pm Wednesday, when he was sitting in the TV room of the tearoom discussing cricket and relaxing with Opposition MPs Roodal Moonilal and Kelvin Ramnath.

Sharma entered the room and sat opposite him. Rowley said he mentioned that he had seen Sharma’s comments in the newspapers, describing Government’s assistance to hurricane-ravaged Grenada as a racist strategy to bring Grenadians to T&T to vote for the ruling PNM.

“I said to the gentleman why is it that even in a moment of tragedy you have to reduce it to race? Why is it that on every single issue you have to find a racial component to it?

“And...the gentleman started to abuse me obscenely, calling me a number of obscene types of racist, and at that stage I responded to him and we had a very heated, very short, but very agitated exchange..verbal exchange.”

Rowley confirmed that Moonilal intervened and went with him outside the tea room, where they were joined in conversation by Persad-Bissessar, who arrived after the event.

“All this arising out of a verbal incident is a political conspiracy for political gain and it does not matter whose reputation is damaged,” he added.

He said he had not been contacted by the police concerning Sharma’s claims.

Rowley and Trade & Industry Minister Kenneth Valley said the allegations made by Persad-Bissessar and Singh against Rowley were the result of a UNC caucus meeting held on Wednesday evening.

Junior National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, who was also present at the ceremonial opening, believes Sharma exaggerated the incident.

Tea room ‘clash’ appals Chamber

Call for quick police action




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