UNC MPs upset over PM's absence from Parliament

Opposition Whip David Lee. -
Opposition Whip David Lee. -

OPPOSITION MPs were upset over the absence of the Prime Minister from the House of Representatives on May 24 to answer prime minister's questions.

Under the House's standing orders, prime minister's questions takes place at its second sitting each month. The May 24 sitting was such an occasion.

After the Clerk of the House announced prime minister's questions, Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis said Government was seeking a deferral of those questions and there was consensus with the opposition about this.

Opposition Whip David Lee said he was uncertain about the consensus Robinson-Regis referred to.

He asked whether Dr Rowley would be answering prime minister's questions later in the sitting or at a subsequent one.

Robinson-Regis said it would be the latter, because Rowley would not be in the House later in the day. She added that his absence from the House was due to a death in his family.

At a Conversations with the Prime Minister in Scarborough, Tobago on May 23, Rowley mentioned to his audience that one of his brothers had died.

Lee asked whether Rowley could have appeared virtually to answer questions or could do so at a sitting at the end of this month.

On the former, Robinson-Regis said Rowley only answered questions virtually while he was in isolation during the covid19 pandemic when he had the virus.

She added that Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George had granted permission on that occasion to facilitate this.

On the latter, Robinson-Regis said the final day of this month is a public holiday (May 31, as Corpus Christi and Indian Arrival Day both fall on May 30).

Hence the House will not sit on that day.

She said Rowley will next answer prime minister's questions at the second sitting of the House in June, in accordance with the standing orders.

Robinson-Regis added that on this issue she has been "quite lucid, pellucid and clear."

Lee said, "This is a mockery of our standing orders. We will not stand for that."

Opposition MPs thumped their desks in support of his dissatisfaction over Robinson-Regis' statements.

Annisette-George later intervened to restore order as government and opposition MPs traded inaudible remarks across the chamber.

"With respect to this matter, it is quite clear that the Prime Minister is not present and he's not going to be present today. There is an undertaking from the Leader of the House that in spite of the circumstances that on the next occasion of prime ministerial questions that these questions present and the others to come will then be responded to, and I so rule. Let's move on."

The opposition had filed eight questions for Rowley to answer.

Their topics included the Strategic Services Agency, crime, Tobago and the construction of a proposed cricket academy by the Reliance Group of India.

Earlier in the sitting, Annisette-George granted Tunapuna MP Esmond Forde, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Mayaro MP Rushton Paray leave of absence.


"UNC MPs upset over PM’s absence from Parliament"

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