Former Trinidad PM Basdeo Panday suspended from parliament

April 8th, 2008 - 10:37 am ICT by admin  

By Paras Ramoutar
Port of Spain, April 8 (IANS) Trinidad and Tobago’s former prime minister Basdeo Panday has been banned over the weekend from participating in parliamentary debates until the end of the present session that ends in December 2008. The saga started two weeks ago when, during a sitting of the House of Representatives, he used a laptop and refused to obey Speaker Barry Sinanan who asked him to desist from using the laptop while the House was in session.

Further warning from the speaker had no impact on Panday, and he was subsequently suspended from the service of the House from the remainder of the session.

This is Panday’s second brush with authorities in parliament. In May 2005 his seat was declared vacant following several criminal charges against him for failing to declare his assets to the Integrity Commission. After last November’s general elections, Panday won his Couva North seat, which he has represented since 1976, and was appointed leader of the opposition again.

Panday became the first Indo-Trinidadian prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago in November 1995, the same year being the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first of East Indians from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations. People of Indian origin make up about 40 percent of the population of Trinidad and Tobago.

In an interview, Panday said the issue with the speaker that led to his suspension was not about laptop use. Rather, it was a conspiracy between Prime Minister Patrick Manning and the speaker.

“I think he’s treating the entire parliament with contempt. He’s treating the members of the House with contempt…to simply send a memo and say this decree I change and I add to the standing orders,” Panday told IANS.

Panday said the speaker has no right and no power to send circulars ordering MPs to seek his permission to use electronic devices.

“The democracy is that they are speaking through us and when you stop us from speaking …you stop the people, this is a fundamental breach of democratic right,” Panday added.

His United National Congress (UNC) opposition plans a series of national meetings to protest the speaker’s ruling.

“My next step is to go to the people. I always believe the final arbiters in all political matters are the people. You go to them and they tell you whether you are right or wrong and what you must do,” he said.

Panday’s suspension can only be rescinded if any of the 40 MPs bring a motion under Standing Order 43(7) to terminate his suspension, but this must receive a majority vote.

The present make up of the House of Representatives is the governing PNM 26 and Panday’s UNC 15 seats.

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