Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has filed a Private Member’s motion of censure against House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George, claiming she has brought her office and the Parliament into disrepute.
Moonilal, in a letter to Clerk of the House of Representatives, Jacqui Sampson-Meiguel, said although the Speaker denied his request for a discussion on a controversial sale of fuel by state enterprise Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, she failed to disclose a conflict of interest.
Paria’s chairman, Newman George, is Annisette-George’s husband, and under him, 150,000 barrels of fuel was sold to a company in Aruba with alleged ties to Venezuela’s government. That fuel, it is alleged, eventually made its way to Venezuela – whose government is under US and Organization of American States economic sanctions.
“…It is a matter of public record that the spouse of the Speaker is indeed the chairman of that state entity; and whereas the Speaker in receiving and considering this motion did not at any material time indicate a possible or apparent bias or prejudice; and whereas the Speaker ruled on this motion filed by the member knowing it to concern a scandal-riddled deal involving an immediate member of her family,” the motion said.
The Speaker then, had an “unconditional duty in law to declare her interest and/or recuse herself from considering the motion,” Moonilal claimed.
Her refusal to acknowledge her conflict of interest was compounded by her own reprimand a week later, when on May 8 in a statement to the Parliament, Annisette-George sought “to rebuke and condemn the said member (Moonilal) for reporting elsewhere on this matter… the Speaker thereby committed an egregious breach of the established rules of conduct and conventions of the House.”
The motion then calls on the House to censure the Speaker for her “failure to act properly and impartially in this exercise of her office.”
On April 27, Annisette-George denied Moonilal’s request in the House of Representatives to discuss the fuel sale as a Definite Matter of Urgent Public Importance. In her statement to the Parliament last week, she said there was apparent misuse and abuse of Standing Order 17 and it was clear that some members had difficulty in grasping the meaning of the term "definite." For a matter to be definite, she said, it must not only be specific but the facts must be settled, certain and not hypothetical or presumptive. "Mere allegations cannot constitute a definite matter. Indeed, the requirement that the matter must be definite is, logically, the first and most critical hurdle."
After he was refused, Moonilal wrote to US Ambassador to TT, Joseph Mondello complaining about, among other things, his motion being shot down.
Annisette-George said as a seasoned member of the House, Moonilal should have known better, yet saw it fit through social and traditional media to distort her ruling.
"To the reasonable mind, the reprehensible behaviour by the member was intended to have no other effect than to bring this House into odium and to lower its authority. In fact, the conduct and statements of the Member for Oropouche East are tantamount to contempt,” she said in her statement.