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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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Editorial

Colossal waste of time

File photo: Jeff K. Mayers
File photo: Jeff K. Mayers

MEMBERS of Parliament should never be frustrated in doing their job. They have a sacred duty to represent their constituents, to legislate on behalf of the nation, and to address matters affecting the public interest.

With all due respect to those concerned, the debate that took place on Wednesday in relation to a motion brought against Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal for a remark directed to Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds was not the most efficient use of parliamentary time. Some would say bluntly it was a colossal waste.

As soon as he made his remark on October 15, Moonilal should have apologised and moved on. Instead, things were left to come to a head. The Government, alleging conduct that brought the House of Representatives “into ridicule and public odium,” tabled a motion of censure. As a result, the Privileges Committee held four meetings. Six members of the Parliament staff were assigned to support the proceedings. At one stage, a court case was filed against the committee.

Meanwhile, an interim report was tabled in the House of Representatives in February. A final report, running up to 120 pages including minutes and other documents, was tabled in June. It all adds up to a not inconsiderable expenditure of state resources.

Moonilal is entitled to exercise his legal rights and to ask the courts to ventilate important questions of law. Yet one cannot help but question his judgment in this particular instance. Was uttering “Da is why snake have some lead for you” an appropriate vehicle for his legal advocacy? On its face, and in context of the assault on a sitting MP which made its way to court, such a springboard is of questionable provenance.

Yet the Government cannot engage in offensive political platform rhetoric while throwing stones at opponents. This week alone, spokespersons alleged, without substantive ventilation, the paying of bribes. Scandal after feigned moral outrage. Tit for tat. We are entitled to criticise public officials and we say today that it is both sides of the political divide that have, over time, brought “ridicule and public odium” upon themselves.

The sad irony is all of this occurred as the State moved to increase politicians’ benefits, and as the world prepared to observe the International Day of Parliamentarism on Sunday.

Wednesday’s proceedings confirmed how far we have to go. A report on the workings of Parliament prepared by Prof Frederick Stapenhurst, and published on the Parliament’s own website, shows that only 26 per cent of people in this country trust the Parliament.

Perhaps the parties should debate that?

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