Speaker suspends hearing against Moonilal

House Speak­er Brigid An­nisette-George has agreed to sus­pend the hear­ing of the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee mat­ter against Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Mooni­lal pend­ing the out­come of his le­gal chal­lenge.

Through her at­tor­ney Deb­o­rah Peake SC, the House Speak­er gave the un­der­tak­ing that the Com­mit­tee will not hold any meet­ings or hear­ings re­gard­ing the al­le­ga­tions against Mooni­lal pend­ing the out­come of the sub­stan­tive mat­ter.

Mooni­lal is chal­leng­ing the le­gal­i­ty of the com­mit­tee con­sti­tut­ed to hear the two al­le­ga­tions against him.

The mat­ter came up for hear­ing be­fore Jus­tice Ava­son Quin­lan-Williams in the San Fer­nan­do Civ­il Court on Tues­day hours be­fore the sched­uled meet­ing at the Par­lia­ment build­ing. 

Mooni­lal who has named At­tor­ney Gen­er­al as the de­fen­dant filed for the in­junc­tive re­lief on Mon­day.

Mooni­lal is fac­ing two al­le­ga­tions be­fore the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee.

The first one in­volves an al­leged state­ment on Oc­to­ber 10, 2018, by Mooni­lal dur­ing cross talk, “Da is why snake have some lead for you,” in which Min­is­ter in the Min­istry of the At­tor­ney and Laven­tille West MP Fitzger­ald Hinds is the com­plainant.

The sec­ond has to do with al­le­ga­tions made by Mooni­lal on Oc­to­ber 9, 2018, about a pos­si­ble link be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley, a bank ac­count and the AV Drilling fake oil scan­dal. 

Row­ley has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Ramdeen said the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee, in which Hinds is a mem­ber, wants to hear the two al­le­ga­tions against Mooni­lal at the same time. Hinds has re­cused him­self from sit­ting on the Com­mit­tee dur­ing the hear­ing in­to the al­le­ga­tion in­volv­ing him­self.

Mooni­lal is be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by at­tor­neys Anand Ram­lo­gan SC, Ger­ald Ramdeen and Alvin Pariags­ingh while the AG is be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by at­tor­ney Michael Quam­i­na.

Speak­ing with re­porters af­ter the hear­ing, Mooni­lal said the Speak­er was pre­pared to pro­ceed "full speed ahead" with pro­ceed­ings against him in spite of his con­cerns.

“I think the Speak­er back, back on me. To use the Car­ni­val di­alect. I think she put in re­verse gear and back, back be­cause this morn­ing the Speak­er gave an un­der­tak­ing to the court that there would be there would be no ac­tion tak­en on these mat­ters in­volv­ing me and no meet­ing of the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee to dis­cuss those al­le­ga­tions against me un­til the mat­ter is heard and de­ter­mined by the court. 

So that, in a sense, the court did not have to grant any in­junc­tive re­lief be­cause the Speak­er back, back on me on re­ceiv­ing the le­gal sub­mis­sion of Mr Ram­lo­gan and Mr Ramdeen.

 So that it ap­pears that the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee is now in abeyance since the very com­po­si­tion of the Com­mit­tee is now un­der con­sid­er­a­tion by the court.”

“So the prac­ti­cal ef­fect of that is that Mr Hinds is go­ing to sit in the Com­mit­tee as a wit­ness, give ev­i­dence against Dr Mooni­lal and right af­ter he do that he go­ing to jump out of the wit­ness box and sit in the seat of the judge and then judge Dr Mooni­lal.'

Now we con­sid­er that on com­mon sense prin­ci­ples to be against the rule of law. It does not af­ford Mr Mooni­lal a fair hear­ing,” said Ramdeen. Mooni­lal is seek­ing de­c­la­ra­tions that the hear­ing of these mat­ters by the com­mit­tee as present­ly con­sti­tut­ed is il­le­gal null, void and un­con­sti­tu­tion­al.

“We are pre­pared to sit be­fore the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee prop­er­ly con­sti­tut­ed. 

As it is present­ly con­sti­tut­ed it is in breach of the con­sti­tu­tion and stand­ing or­ders,” said Ramdeen.

 Mooni­lal who was ac­com­pa­nied by sev­er­al of his con­stituents, is al­so seek­ing to have the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al pay com­pen­sa­tion and his le­gal costs. 

The judge gave a time line for the at­tor­neys to file their af­fi­davits and oth­er doc­u­ments. 

The mat­ter will next be heard on April 2, at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain.

More on Mooni­lal’s case

In his doc­u­ments filed in court, Mooni­lal wants the court to de­clare that both the Speak­er and Hinds are au­to­mat­i­cal­ly dis­qual­i­fied to sit on the com­mit­tee.

Mooni­lal is ar­gu­ing that it is “fun­da­men­tal­ly un­fair and con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly im­prop­er” for Hinds to sit in judge­ment of one of the al­le­ga­tions while the com­mit­tee is hear­ing an­oth­er com­plaint which al­leges that he threat­ened Hinds' life or made se­ri­ous threats of harm to him. 

Mooni­lal fur­ther con­tends that the Speak­er, in de­liv­er­ing her rul­ing on whether a pri­ma fa­cie case was made out, “im­per­mis­si­bly crossed the line” by stat­ing, ‘there is ab­solute­ly no place for vi­o­lent or threat­en­ing lan­guage in this house.’ 

Mooni­lal, in the claim form, said the Speak­er pre­judged the mat­ter and prej­u­diced the pro­ceed­ings of the Priv­i­leges of Com­mit­tee.”

In his af­fi­davit, Mooni­lal is al­so chal­leng­ing the com­po­si­tion of the com­mit­tee and re­ferred to Stand­ing Or­der 92 which states that the com­mit­tee shall com­prise of six mem­bers, in­clud­ing the chair­man. 

Mooni­lal sub­mit­ted that the com­mit­tee hear­ing the two al­le­ga­tions against him com­prise of sev­en and eight mem­bers re­spec­tive­ly.

Mooni­lal, in the court doc­u­ments, ex­pressed fear that he was not be­ing af­ford­ed a fair tri­al and it is in breach of his fun­da­men­tal rights.

Mooni­lal said his con­stituents are con­cerned that the gov­ern­ment is seek­ing to si­lence and get him out of the Par­lia­ment.

Reporter: Sascha Wilson

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