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Opposition

Renuka Singh

The normally staid and respectful proceedings at the House of Representatives, yesterday devolved into loud shouting, desk-thumping and accusations that mics were deliberately being muted.

Members of the Opposition were dressed in all black saying that they were mourning the death of democracy.

Both the Lower and Upper House came together to form an Electoral College to vote on the unprecedented motion brought by the Opposition to remove the President.

The cacophony came from only the Opposition bench as the members of the Government bench did not say a word during the two-hour-long proceedings.

The disruptions stemmed from the Speaker’s refusal to allow the Opposition leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar to read more than just the details of her motion into Hansard and refused to allow a debate on the matter at this stage.

The steady desk-thumping seemed to interfere with the mechanics of the microphones because Guardian Media was positioned near the technicians who seemed trying to determine why the mics were shorting off.

Member of Parliament for St Augustine Khadija Ameen even accused the Speaker of deliberately keeping her mic on so as to ensure theirs remained off. She said that House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George “kept her hand on the button” to ensure that they could not speak.

When the matter went before the Electoral College – both Houses of Parliament – during the roll call, the Opposition members kept saying “present, under protest”. Senator Anil Roberts said he was “present and ready to debate”.

Member for Barataria, Saddam Hosein had to be asked three times to take his seat as he kept standing and speaking while the Speaker was on her legs.

Roberts and UNC Senator Damian Lyder kept asking for “the motion” to be read to the Electoral College saying they did not know what they were being asked to vote on and asked whether they had to simply “toe the party lines”.

When Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat was asked to vote, Members of the Opposition asked him if he knew what he was voting on.

“I could read,” he said with a smile.

“Allyuh read it to (Works and Transport Minister) Rohan (Sinanan)? Yuh know he can’t read,” they joked. Both Rambharat and Sinanan smiled at the picong.

Several Members of the Opposition even interrupted each other, all standing at the same time and trying to shout at Annisette-George that Persad-Bissessar needed to speak on the matter.

At one point MP for Princes Town Bary Pardarath shouted at Annisette-George “the people elected us who elected you?”

The motion to remove the President devolved into shouts from the Opposition as several of them claimed that their microphones were being switched off.

Senator Jearlean John wrote her vote down, saying that her mic was off.

The entire proceeding was marred by a steady stream of interruptions only by the Opposition bench and no one from the Government spoke out.

“This is a death announcement, this is the death to our democracy,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Both Persad-Bissessar and Annisette-George clashed until Persad-Bissessar gave way and sat down.

But her members continued to call for her to be allowed to speak.

The vote was taken by a simple yes or no and continued despite the interruptions.