ON Friday, Dr Keith Rowley, as usual, used his time in Parliament to spew out a continuous stream of the most unparliamentary language possible.
Dr Roodal Moonilal raised the relevant Standing Order with the Deputy Speaker. The Deputy Speaker asked what specific word was objected to, and Dr Moonilal noted “hypocrite”. Remarkably, the Deputy Speaker said “hypocrite” was not unparliamentary language!
This is incredible. And it shows why our institutions have become so degraded under the PNM, who have abused our country in so many ways, for so many decades.
Parliament is not the political platform. Yes, one is protected by parliamentary privilege, but one is also supposed to be limited to only use parliamentary language.
What is parliamentary language? Put simply, it is language that does not attack another member personally. In parliamentary debate, you are supposed to play the ball, not the man.
Other parliaments in the Commonwealth actually have lists of words that have already been judged to be unparliamentary. Imagine how Parliament would be uplifted if the Speaker knew these basic rules and principles. One is not supposed to attack the member, or question the members’ motives or reasons. A member’s character, motives or reasons are irrelevant. The only point that matters is whether the issue at hand being debated is true or not. To attack the messenger is unparliamentary.
Yet by his own admission that was all that Keith Rowley did on Friday: attack Dr Moonilal’s motivations while personally insulting him and members of the other side. And all this was deemed “parliamentary” by the Deputy Speaker. Incredible.
Given that very soon we may see a whole new set of young parliamentarians, it is important that these parliamentary principles are remembered and honoured, and we don’t further slide into the filth.
To Trinidadians used to living under PNM regimes this may be shocking. But it shows how the PNM have systematically degraded our institutions for six long decades.
For those old enough to remember the LegCo—or even the early days of Parliament in Independence— we can remember how well parliamentarians spoke, and how witty they were. This was almost entirely because they could not use such vile, direct personal attacks.
That the Deputy Speaker of the House has no idea about this, is absolutely scandalous and needs to be addressed.
It is ironic that this should occur during a motion of censure against the Speaker for not having recused herself while there was a conflict of interest. Again, this is another basic parliamentary convention ignored by the Speaker of the House herself!
So who is to upkeep or restore the dignity of the House?
If our current leaders will not, then we the people and, after elections, new leaders must.