United National Congress (UNC) Senators Jayanti Lutchmedial and David Nakhid are challenging statements made by Independent Senators Anthony Vieira and Paul Richards about Thursday’s failed motion to remove President Paula-Mae Weekes over the Police Service Commission (PSC) fiasco.
Vieira has been reported as describing Thursday’s proceedings as a “fish market” and said that he was offended that the UNC members had said the Independent Senators voted with the Government to toe the line. Richards too has been reported as likening the atmosphere created by the Opposition to that of a fish market.
Yesterday, Lutchmedial questioned why Vieira stayed silent on Thursday but chose to attack the Opposition in the media.
“If the Senator thought anyone was conflicted, he had a duty to raise it in the chamber so his allegation could be properly answered. No Independent or PNM member who sat in the House raised that issue, which is surprising as they are all quite comfortable raising points that lack substance,” she said in a release.
Persad-Bissessar’s motion was sparked by the chain of events that led to the eventual collapse of the PSC and the High Court ruling which made the acting appointment of former CoP Gary Geriffith, after his three-year tenure ended in August, as well as that of Mc Donald Jacob null and void, effectively leaving the T&T Police Service with no substantive head.
Vieira reportedly took such strong objection to the Opposition’s allegations about toeing the line when they voted against the motion that he said he intended to bring a motion of contempt against them.
Lutchmedial accused Viera of a lack of understanding of the issues that led to the UNC motion, which was defeated following a vote of 24 for and 47 against.
“Senator Vieira has displayed (perhaps) willful ignorance and lack of understanding of the issues at hand. He voted against the motion without an appreciation of the salient facts, which is a complete betrayal of his oath of office,” she said.
She also accused Vieira of wearing “balisier-coloured glasses.”
“Instead of parroting PNM propaganda, Senator Viera should read the motion filed by the Honourable Member for Siparia and all the information in the public domain surrounding this debacle. This may provide an opportunity to exercise some independent thought on serious matters affecting the country, instead of commenting on the behaviour of others with sanctimonious piety. If he wants to discuss important matters in whispered tones over tea and crumpets, he can do that on his own time,” Lutchmedial said.
“The UNC will have its voice heard inside and outside of the Parliament. They can mute our mikes but not our voices,” she added.
In a reference to Independent Senator Charisse Seepersad, who refused to recuse herself, as per a UNC request, because she is the sister of PSC chairman Bliss Seepersad, Lutchmedial said Parliament was “not a place to shield your colleagues, who see no issue with pursuing private interests by voting against the establishment of a tribunal to investigate matters which involve possible wrongdoing by their sibling, but who abstain from voting on matters that affect national interest like the gutting of the Procurement Act.”
“That behaviour, in my view, is worse than what we see in any fish market, as the fishmongers and those who patronise them exhibit a higher level of decency, honesty and integrity,” she said.
Lutchmedial said it was curious that Vieira considered the Opposition desk-thumping “unbecoming of Parliamentarians, but is comfortable with calling citizens “idiots.”
“The Opposition Senate bench will not be intimidated by the pomp and arrogance of someone who no one voted for and who refuses to stand for what is right and just. The false and derogatory statements made by Senator Vieira about members of the Opposition and their conduct only serves to bolster the view that the Senator is more eager to join the PNM campaign to silence the voice of the Opposition, as opposed to seeking answers on behalf of the population,” Lutchmedial said.
“We remain committed to our duty despite any misguided diatribes emanating from those who hide behind the fig leaf of an independent title.”
Meanwhile, her colleague Nakhid tackled both Vieira and Richards, saying they were acting like judge, jury and executioner.
“Senator Vieira made the wildest of allegations that members of the Opposition had imputed the integrity and reputation of Independent Senators by saying that they are not independent and that they were “singing for their supper.” Senator Vieira fails to realise the irony and hypocrisy of such a blanket statement against unnamed members of the Opposition – effectively, against all of us – and if Senator Vieira does not immediately withdraw this statement which implicates myself and other Senators, who made no such remarks, the Senator will be taken before the Privileges Committee,” Nakhid said in a statement.
“To add insult to his own duplicity, Senator Vieira proffered a lengthy diatribe on the proceedings in Parliament, including the opinion “that the motion should not have even seen the light of day,” and this without having heard any debate on said motion.”
He added, “Well, Senator Vieira is entitled to his opinion and so are we. The citizens of this country will look past the hypocritical, well-clothed incivility that passes for independence by many commentators in Trinidad and Tobago.
“As for Senator Paul Richards, who likened the proceedings and by implication the behaviour of the Opposition to a fish market, I will respectfully inform the Senator that sometimes in a fish market, the stench that arises can be coming from your own stall. For these unwarranted and unnecessary attacks by both the aforementioned Independent Senators, we await the quickest of apologies in like manner to the insults given.”
Efforts to contact Vieira for a comment yesterday were unsuccessful as he neither answered his phone nor responded to messages.