If the Opposition does not get its way in Parliament, former United National Congress senator Larry Lalla believes members can boycott the Parliament for the rest of the term.
Speaking on Aakash Vani 106.5 FM Morning Panchayat yesterday, Lalla said the decision by Speaker of the House of Representatives Bridgid Annisette-George took an undemocratic position by not allowing debate on the motion raised by the Opposition to establish a tribunal to impeach President Paula-Mae Weekes.
Lalla, a lawyer, said what was at stake is the issue of decorum when it comes to issues regarding the Office of the President. The Opposition requires a special majority of votes to pass the motion but does not have the numbers to win by itself.
“If the Speaker insists on conducting herself that way tomorrow, it means that this Parliament, as constituted with this speaker, is not serving its intended purpose. The Opposition would need to take further steps in order to bring the matter to an end. If that means boycotting the Parliament for the rest of this term, then so be it. I think reasonable citizens would understand, regardless of party lines,” Lalla said.
Annisette-George is the chairman of the Electoral College, which elects the President. It comprises all members of the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament. Annisette-George’s guidelines for the motions states that members would vote and leave, and there would be no debate.
Lalla said it amounts to suppression of democracy and believes Annisette-George should reconsider as the Constitution does not give her the authority to set such a rule.
“In any organisation, in any forum, be it a village council, someone proposes a motion, it is a fundamental part of the democratic process that there be a discussion on the motion before it goes to the vote. Therefore, what this speaker is doing flies in the face of every democratic principle and is inconsistent with the manner in which the Parliament, in modern Trinidad & Tobago, ought to operate,” Lalla said.
He found it interesting that Parliament relied on the provisions of the Electoral College within the Constitution. He said it, therefore, meant that Annisette-George alone could not determine the process.
“It cements the view in people’s minds that what is taking place is an abuse of power by the government leadership and that our democratic right is being railroaded in order to facilitate narrow party interest.”
He noted that the Opposition failed in a previous Motion of No Confidence in Annisette-George. Lalla said if she persists with her “undemocratic” approach today, the problems in the Parliament will worsen.
While the Opposition moves ahead to have Weekes impeached, Lalla said it is not too late for her.
He said Weekes should meet with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to discuss the issues surrounding the Police Service Commission (PolSC).
Lalla said Weekes found herself in trouble because of the events on August 11 and 12 and the allegations that she met with former PolSC chairman Bliss Seepersad and a high-level government official.