Express Editorial : Daily

Predictably, the Opposition Leader’s motion to remove the President crashed and burned on the Parliament’s floor with a wide 47-24 margin of defeat.

From the start, this was a misguided motion that smacked of over-reach and succeeded only in bringing a healthy public ­debate on the role of the President to a premature end.

The guidelines issued by the Speaker on Tuesday were consistent with the constitutional procedure, although this newspaper still holds the view that the Speaker had some latitude under the Electoral College regulations for exercising creative discretion. However, on the face of it, her decision to play by the book is defensible. On the other hand, it is unlikely that the Opposition Leader was unaware of the limitations of the constitutional motion for moving against the President. We can only assume that the declamations about dictatorship were all part of the theatre of Opposition politics.

The Speaker was clearly alert to the strategy, which probably explains why she issued the guidelines in the first place. What the world witnessed in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament yesterday was the Opposition’s counter strategy in response to being denied a debate for which its appetite had been whetted by public outrage over the recent events leading to the collapse of the Police Service Commission.

Looking on at the jaw-dropping scenes via the Parliament Channel, people with completely different political loyalties sent up the common cry of “a sad day in T&T”, although speaking from completely opposite perspectives. For both the supporters of the opposition United National Congress (UNC) and the governing People’s National Movement (PNM), yesterday was the day ­democracy died. For UNC supporters it was pounded to death under the Speaker’s gavel, while for PNM supporters it was the day the UNC killed it. However, by the standard witnessed in Parliament over the years, it was immature, ugly and embarrassing, but hardly terrifying.

To be sure, it was unworthy of a woman who has led this country as a Prime Minister, and of her MPs who adopted the position that the best form of defence was offence and offensiveness.

When the smoke clears, this intemperate motion aimed at the President’s jugular is likely to be recognised as a distraction that disrupted the public’s very engaged debate about institutional independence, the relationship between the Prime Minister and President under the T&T’s republican Constitution, the meaningfulness of such concepts as the separation of powers under our Constitution, and so on.

More than aggression, yesterday’s performance by UNC MPs betrayed the impotence of the Opposition within our constitutional framework. It was precisely because the UNC arrived knowing it was already defeated that, being denied a debate, it opted to deliver a performance in bacchanal.

For her part, the Speaker seemed prepared, sticking to her script and resisting the goading, to bring the proceedings to a close without ejecting a single member. Whether the country can get back to the serious issues after yesterday’s descent into farce remains to be seen. A truly sad outcome would be if the public were driven back into apathy by the distastefulness on display.

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