Wednesday 2nd April, 2008

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Clash in the House

  • Speaker Sinanan played into Mr Panday’s political hands.
  • Speaker used sledge hammer to deal with a minor infraction.
  • Country awaits Panday’s next move.

What madness has taken or is taking over sweet T&T?

That was my gut reaction to the fiasco in the House of Representatives last Friday when Speaker Barry Sinanan, threw out Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday after he refused to respect the authority of the chair (Speaker).

What did the irrepressible Panday did to earn the wrath of Speaker Sinanan?

Panday refused to tell him whether he had any intention of speaking in the debate at hand which, if the answer was in the affirmative, he could have continued using, or playing, with the government-supplied laptop while the Lower House was in session.

Apparently there is some agreement between the Speaker and the parliamentary representatives that the latter could use, or play with, their laptops with the permission of the chair.

When the question was put to the Leader of the Opposition if he would be contributing to the debate he quite rightly explained he could not say unless he heard what direction it was taking.

The matter at hand was a motion (private members) and moved by the opposition member for Cumuto/Manzanilla Harry Partap, which criticised the Government for allegedly failing to contain rising food prices.

Panday also refused to stop using, or playing with, his laptop and for this major infringement, this earth shattering act of disobedience on the part of the member for Couva North, Speaker Sinanan invoked his authority and asked the police put him out the chamber as ordered.

Mercifully the police hesitated and Mr. Panday was spared the sorry spectacle of being taken down by the police, not that that is any thing strange to him.

As readers of this column would know by now I am of the firm belief that the biggest problem in this country is indisciplined—from top to bottom—and from that flows all our other major problems.

So I do not easily countenance deliberate flouting of the rules and regulations at home—that’s where the indiscipline starts—or elsewhere.

But on sober reflection after the facts of this incident as reported in the news media, was the Speaker’s action as they would say in industrial relations lingo, harsh and oppressive?

In other words was Panday’s crime deserving of his punishment meted out by Speaker Sinanan– indefinite suspension?

Although the suspension was said to be indefinite in that no date of its duration was fixed by the Speaker, there was one report that it could last at as long as the end of this parliamentary session in December.

But it could come to an end before that time if a motion is so moved to have the suspension lifited from the irrepressible Panday.

Even though a rational person would agree that Panday was being extremely petulant and obstinate in his attitude to the authority of the Speaker on that day, was the Speaker morally justified in temporarily banishing Panday even from the precincts of the legislature?

Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to submit my considered response is a big fat no, and if my political barometer is reading correctly I think you have played right into Panday’s hands.

I don’t know if you got up one morning and decided you would not take any more nonsensical behavior from the likes of Mr Panday, and would show them that you are really the boss of your chamber.

Let’s assume this is so but is the laptop infraction serious enough to warrant hitting Panday on his head with a sledge hammer?

Or do you know something the rest of the population does not? For instance did Mr Panday’s laptop contain some remote device to trigger some kind of explosion in the august chamber?

You correctly recalled that he has said he did not plan to contribute to the debates in the parliament and perhaps he was just acting in furtherance of that stance.

You seem to forget, as if you need to be remained at all, that he also said being on the opposition benches was a waste of time in that nothing said would hardly be—if ever—implemented by the Government.

He confirmed what former government Minister Hugh Francis told me when he was in charge of the Works portfolio that opposition politics was frustrating politics. So from your superior position in the Lower House one would expect you to be somewhat a bit more indulging in the sometimes “unparliamentary” antics of the opposition legislators.

I am in no way suggesting Mr Speaker that you allow them to do whatever they want in the highest court of the and, for that could make a mockery of our system of governance.

What else can we make of Mr Panday’s conduct last Friday?

He came up with a very transparent plan to put himself once again the national spotlight and unfortunately, it appears Mr Speaker, you have paved the way for part two in this political grandstanding.

I do not know what he hopes to achieve (if anything tangible) in this game and only time will tell what he is up to. But for now he is firmly on the national front burner and the nation is eagerly awaitng the next move of the Silver Fox.

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