Statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives on the Wilful Propulsion of the Republic to Constitutional Crisis, Social and Political Upheaval, Polarisation of the Society’s Diverse Groups, Anarchy and Economic Collapse
Moves to overthrow the Govt
I address this Honourable House as a Representative of the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, democratically elected by an overwhelming majority of the votes cast in the December 11th general election in the constituency of Couva North; and in the nation as a whole.
I address this Honourable House as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad, appointed thus in accordance with the mandate of the Constitution requiring that the Leader of the Party with the majority of the Seats in the House should form the Government.
Our democratic institutions mandate that as the elected Head of the Government, I am accountable to the people through the Parliament.
Unlike Guyana, we do not have an Executive President.
Because my mandate to govern comes directly from the people, more than 300,000 of whom voted for the re-election of the United National Congress, I, also hold myself directly accountable to the people.
This is an option that I am yet to exercise in relation to what must now be regarded as the propulsion of our Republic to constitutional crisis; to social and political upheaval; to polarisation of the society’s diverse groups; and ultimately to anarchy and to economic collapse.
It is my duty to now inform this Honourable House, that information has come to the attention of the Government, which could only lead to the conclusion that interests opposed the United National Congress administration are in collusion to seize power, some by violent means.
It would be obvious, Mr Speaker, that security imperatives prohibit disclosure of this information, at this time.
It would, however, be instructive to relate this information to facts already in the public domain.
On the night of December 11th, 2000, in his concession that he had again led his party to another general election defeat, the Leader of the Opposition described the elections results as the expression of “The Voice of the People”.
In saying that, he emphasised that “The Voice of the People is the Voice of God”.
Having made a complete summersault, the Leader of the Opposition declared on Sunday his political policy position that he did not consider the Government legitimate, and that he was contemplating public demonstrations.
It must be noted that the Leader of the Opposition’s declaration of his intention to organise demonstrations came mere hours after he was dealt a public reproof by his political mentor, Selwyn Cudjoe, in the Express newspaper.
It is also to be noted, Mr Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition’s declaration of his intention to organise street demonstrations was preceded on Sunday by the dismissal of the Report of the Commonwealth Observer Group as “Not worth the paper it was printed on”, by Opposition supporter and apologist Selwyn Ryan, writing in the Express.
In the same vein, the Express carried an extremely intemperate Editorial, written, presumably, by the Libyan-connected “journalist-hitman”, army mutineer, and my vanquished political foe of long-standing.
The sequential statements by Messrs Manning, Cudjoe, Shah, and Ryan came four days after the re-emergence of Bilaal Abdullah, the Libyan-trained gunman who led the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen group that murdered a member of Parliament, a police officer, and other innocent and defenceless persons, in Abu Bakr and his gang’s murderous attempt to seize control of the country on the 27th of July, 1990.
The re-emergence of Yasin Abu Bakr’s erstwhile second-in-command came five days after President Robinson had welcomed to the President House Selwyn Cudjoe and others who were at that time engaged in an illegal demonstration that had been denied the required approval of the Police.
The Government has received information that certain groups are amassing arms, recently smuggled into the country, for what is believed to be a violent attempt to take control of the country.
Not too long ago, the very Selwyn Cudjoe had attempted unsuccessfully to organise in this country a boycott of all businesses not owned by what he called “Afro-Trinidadians”.
These are all facts, Mr Speaker.
Nothing I have said is conjecture.
It is also fact that in January of 1998, three years ago, the Leader of the Opposition convened a news conference to announce, inter alia, that if the losing party did not accept the results of the elections, post elections violence, looting and arson, such as were taking place in Guyana at that time, with the attendant ethnic overtones, were likely to take place here in Trinidad and Tobago, after our general elections.
We can now conclude, Mr Speaker, that the developments that the nation is now witnessing might well have been scripted years ago.
It is perhaps instructive to note that in his television address on January 5th, the President made reference to voter padding and to challenges to Members of Parliament for making false declarations in their nomination papers.
This, His Excellency did, despite the fact that these matters are before the Courts.
Not a single person has yet been tried, far less convicted, on voter padding charges, Mr Speaker.
The President made reference to two matters involving allegations of false declarations by candidates in the nomination process.
In fact, four such matters are before the court.
Two of those challenges involve Government Members of this House.
The other two challenges have been lodged against the Honourable Member for San Fernando East and the Honourable Member for Laventille West.
It is possible that some permutation, or all, of these matters can go to the Privy Council, Mr Speaker.
Any individual, any group, respecting the Constitution, the Law and the principles of Justice and due process, would respect the presumption of innocence until guilt is determined.
Permit me to enter into the record my unequivocal undertaking that I, and the United National Congress government, as well as the Party which I am privileged to lead, will respect, honour and abide with the final determination by the courts and/or the Privy Council, whichever becomes the final arbiter in these matters.
I am tempted to seek a similar undertaking from the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Speaker.
However, his recent remarks suggest that he trusts neither the country’s Constitution, the Courts, or the Law.
During the general elections campaign, the Leader of the Opposition so outrageously attempted to set the Police against the Government that he drew a rebuke from the Commissioner of Police for what was described as an egregious offer of a bribe to the Police.
What we are faced with is an unending series of kangaroo courts in which detractors of the Government have set themselves up as prosecutors, judges, juries and executioners.
The fact is, Mr Speaker, over the last six weeks, the Leader of the Opposition and his cohorts have repeatedly made statements intended to discredit every democratic institution in our society, including the Elections and Boundaries Commission.
They have also gone so far as to impugn the reputations of the members of the Commonwealth Observer Group.
The Leader of the Opposition has accused the EBC of being in illegal collusion with the UNC.
He has alleged every imaginable violation of every imaginable election rule.
Surely, Sir, even a child would assume that if the UNC was in control of EBC systems and capable of all the devices that the Opposition Leader claims were brought into play, we would have won 29 seats, not 19.
What the country has been experiencing for more than a month, Mr Speaker, is an unfolding conspiracy to defeat the will of the electorate, which, with the largest number of votes ever given to a single political party, re-elected the United National Congress to Government, the first such political development since the Eric Williams era.
Perhaps because of this, and in spite of this, the forces of insurrection now appear bent on exploiting the flagrant and continuing contravention of the Constitution by the holder of the highest office in the land.
Last Friday, the President took the utterly irregular action of summoning the Acting Commissioner of Police to attend upon him.
This confirms the President’s sad and petulant defiance of the Constitutional reality that Trinidad and Tobago does not provide for an Executive President on the United States Model.
In a singularly improper action, last week, the President wrote directly to the Heads of the Caribbean Community, calling for their support for the International Criminal Court.
Such an initiative comes, properly, from Government, to Governments, not from a Head of State to Heads of Government.
The Heads of the Community therefore correctly did not give any consideration to the President’s communication.
To say the least, Mr Speaker, this violation of convention and protocol was a source of considerable embarrassment to the Trinidad and Tobago Delegation at the Caricom Summit in Jamaica, last Friday.
My Oath of Office compels me to protect the Constitution, and the law, and the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Against the background that I have provided, I have written to the President, advising him to formally assign the functions and responsibilities associated with the Ministry of National Security to the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Protective Services of Trinidad and Tobago have had an unblemished, and indeed praiseworthy record in the disdischarge their duties on behalf of the State, in protection of the citizens, and in defence of the Constitution and the Law.
With the machinations that are now unfolding, we can permit no attempt by any interest to unconstitutionally and illegally assume control of the Protective Services.
The schedule of responsibilities attached to the Ministry of National Security will therefore remain with the Office of the Prime Minister until the President carries out his constitutional obligation to act on the advice of the Prime Minister in the appointment of a Minister of National Security.
The truculence, the threats and the “BadJohnism” of the Leader of the Opposition and those in alliance with him in conspiracy to remove the constitutionally elected Government, completely ignore the fact that Trinidad and Tobago is not and never really was “PNM Country”.
In our plural society, there are untold thousands who are passionately in support of the United National Congress and who are prepared to resist any attempt to steal the Government from the UNC.
There are as well, untold numbers of responsible and conscious persons, not to be counted among the supporters of the UNC, who are repulsed by the naked grab to illegally seize power even if it means polarising the society and the possibility of violent civil conflict.
I have studiously refrained from any statement that would exacerbate the tensions that are being incited in this plural society.
Let not my silence be mistaken for weakness, Mr Speaker.
Those who are preparing for an assault upon the constitutionally elected Government must pause, and give thought to the fact that there are as many who will resolutely resist such an assault.
Against this reality, I urge the Leader of the Opposition to “Cool It”.
I urge him to place the country above his personal inward hungers.
It may well be that given his experience in the uprising of 1970 and in the attempted coup of 1990, the prospect of civil disturbances now holds no terror for President Robinson.
However, the mere contemplation of instability of the nature to which the alliance of Opposition elements appear to be propelling the country is traumatising for the vast majority of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Every mother, every father wants a future for her and his child or children.
A large section of our society comprises middle class families, including a large number of our public servants, who have worked their way up from poverty, to secure jobs and to ownership of decent homes.
Our business sector embraces thousands of small businesses, striving to make it and to grow.
Our wider business community has invested in the organisations that have helped to generate more than 70,000 new jobs since 1995.
They employ the bulk of the men and women in our labour force.
All of this is now under serious threat.
Mr Speaker, investor confidence is now shaken as a result of the crisis that the President has caused.
The Opposition forces, and the drug cartels, are emboldened by the President’s intransigence in his unlawful and improper refusal to act on the Advice of the Prime Minister under Section 40(2) of the Constitution.
The country faces serious destabilisation from the inevitable outcomes to the Opposition Leader’s ongoing incitements, and his planned demonstrations, together with his linkage to Selwyn Cudjoe’s overt efforts to set race against race, and the Jamaat’s warning of unlawful intervention.
The danger we face will not only be the economic collapse and the flight of brain and money from the country, but also a conflagration that could leave this country as poor and as ravaged as those in which the lust of politicians have set diverse groups against one another.
We must not permit this iniquity to descend upon our Republic.
As I have said before, Mr Speaker, my oath of Office compels me to protect the Constitution and the law, and the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Nothing will deter me from the discharge of these obligations, Mr Speaker.
I thank you, Mr Speaker.
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