Motion to remove President fails

A resounding defeat ended the raucous proceedings to impeach President Paula-Mae Weekes yesterday.

The unprecedented motion to remove a sitting President failed with just 24 votes for and 47 against.

All the Independent Senators voted against the motion.

The failure of the motion means that the President will not have to face a tribunal.

Just after 10.30 am yesterday, the House of Representatives convened to lay out the groundwork to establish the Electoral College to vote on the motion to remove the President.

The proceedings were disrupted so often, however, that House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George suspended the sitting to give everyone a 15-minute break.

At 11 am, the House reconvened but it was more of the same.

Annisette-George refused to allow the motion to be read in Parliament, saying that there were no provisions in the Constitution for the motion to be read out.

At the start of the proceedings, Annisette-George made it clear that she would not allow a reading of the motion and that the motion had to be voted on without debate.

While this was not new information, as Annisette-George had set out the guidelines for this matter prior to the session, the Opposition bench erupted in reaction, demanding that their leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, be allowed to read out her motion and for the matter to be opened to debate.

“The leader of the Opposition’s letter also seems to suggest that the debate she desires should take place in the Electoral College, indeed the Member asserted that,” Annisette-George said.

She quoted Persad-Bissessar’s letter, which said that it was “absurd” to ask the House and Senate to vote on the motion without debate.

“However, it is strikingly odd that the leader of the Opposition would refer to a clear provision of the Constitution as ‘absurd’,” Annisette-George said.

Annisette-George said Persad-Bissessar could not have been calling the Constitution absurd because it was at variance with her “misguided opinion.”

This was met with a chorus of dissent from the Opposition bench.

Annisette-George read out the sections of the Constitution which supported her stance that a debate at this stage in the proceedings was not permitted.

According to the by-laws, she said the motion must contain all the details that are to be discussed and voted on and those details cannot be amended or expanded during the sitting. Annisette-George said it was Persad-Bissessar’s responsibility to ensure her motion contained “sufficient detail” to assist the Electoral College to determine whether a full investigation by a tribunal was needed.

“Upon receipt of the report by the tribunal, headed by the Chief Justice, the Electoral College on the summons of the Speaker, considers the report.

“It is at this stage that the Constitution provides for a debate to take place by the Electoral College,” Annisette-George said.

On Wednesday, Persad-Bissessar sent a letter to Annisette-George asking, inter alia, that Independent Senator Charisse Seepersad be recused from the vote as her sister is Bliss Seepersad, former chairman of the Police Service Commission. Persad-Bissessar also said the independent senators would not vote against the President, as she was the one who appointed them.

Annisette-George explained why she would not bar anyone from the motion.

“The claim of the Honourable leader of the Opposition taken to its logical conclusion, would suggest that even the proposer and the members who signed in support may be perceived as biased,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar also called on Annisette-George to recuse herself, as she was the one who drafted the 2009 Order to appoint a police commissioner that was overturned by the High Court two weeks ago.

“No right-thinking person will see the remotest connection between that 2009 order and the subject matter of this motion at hand. The assertion is absolutely illogical and I reject it outright,” the Speaker said.

After nearly two hours of interruptions, accusations of mic tampering and protracted desk thumping, the motion piloted by the Opposition received 24 votes for and 47 votes against. All the independent senators voted against the motion.

Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein questioned why the Speaker’s response to Persad-Bisessar’s letter was being read into Hansard while her letter was not.

“I believe before serving in this House, you would have served in the other place and therefore the Standing Orders in both places are quite similar and therefore, as you quite rightly know, under the item of announcements, what you are seeking is not the practice, it is not the procedure and it is not allowed,” she said.

Hosein countered that he also served as an attorney and as such, he called for fairness justice and equity.

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