Senate debates motion to censure UNC senators

Independent Senator Anthony Vieira. File photo/Roger Jacob 
Independent Senator Anthony Vieira. File photo/Roger Jacob 

When it sits at 1.30 pm on Tuesday, the Senate will debate a private motion filed by Independent Senator Anthony Vieira to censure the conduct of opposition senators against independent senators during a sitting of the Electoral College (the combined membership of the Senate and House of Representatives) on October 21.

On that day, the college rejected a motion filed by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to appoint a tribunal to investigate the removal from office of President Paula-Mae Weekes.

Persad-Bissessar's motion was in relation to events that led to the collapse of the Police Service Commission (PSC) in September and the failure to send a merit list of candidates for a commissioner of police (CoP) to the House for consideration.

When the independent senators each voted "no" on the motion, UNC parliamentarians cried, "Shame!"

Opposition MPs and senators loudly protested the presence of Independent Senator Charrise Seepersad, sister of former PSC chair Bliss Seepersad, in the college's membership.

On October 23, Opposition Senator David Nakhid continued the UNC's attack on the independent senators, criticising comments made after the vote by Independent Senators Paul Richards and Vieira, in separate media interviews.

Vieira observed that Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial, who also participated in the meeting, was part of the legal team in one lawsuit related to the PSC/CoP matter. Richards said he had no problem with political disagreements, but felt the events of October 21 brought the entire Parliament into disrepute.

Subsequently, Persad-Bissessar accused independent senators of "stepping out of their crease and into the political gayelle.” In a television interview on October 27, former independent senator Martin Daly, SC, expressed concern about ongoing hostility between parliamentarians after the events of that day.

Referring to a report at that time, alleging that an independent senator might take action against opposition senators over the events of October 21, Daly said such a step would be ill-advised.

In his motion, Vieira said opposition senators present at the meeting of the college on October 21 made abusive and malicious assertions; and imputed false and improper motives, and cast negative reflections on the character and impartiality of all independent senators during the meeting and in the media.

The motion highlights the duty of senators to uphold Parliament's dignity and defend that dignity against disrespect. It also condemns conduct that is designed to obstruct, intimidate or impede senators in performing their duties as a breach of privilege.

In addition to calling upon the Senate to censure the conduct of opposition senators, the motion also calls for the establishment of a select senate committee to consider and report on a code of ethical conduct and behaviour for senators.

At a news conference on November 21, Opposition Senator Wade Mark said he had written to President Paula-Mae Weekes and Senate President Christine Kangaloo asking for Vieira's senatorial appointment to be revoked.

Under Section 40 (c) of the Constitution, the President is solely responsible for the appointment of the nine independent senators.

The House sits on Wednesday from 1.30 pm to continue debate on the TT Revenue Authority Bill 2021.

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"Senate debates motion to censure UNC senators"

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