June 30, 2021

PM Defends Extra Speaking Time In Tobago Debate, Accuses Opposition Of Shirking Parliamentary Responsibility

By Newsroom

“I plead not guilty- I hijacked no debate.”

The words of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, as an exchange with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar continued into Wednesday, after the Opposition walked out of the House of Representatives a day earlier during the winding up of the Tobago Self Governance Bill. 

Calling a press conference mere hours after Persad-Bissessar hosted her own briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Rowley rejected the narrative put forward by the Opposition that he sought to block her from contributing to the debate. 

The Opposition boycotted Wednesday’s debate on the Tobago Island Government Bill, leaving government MPs to debate amongst themselves.

This was after the Opposition took issue with the PM being allowed an extra hour of speaking time on Tuesday to wind up debate on the Tobago Self Governance Bill, after mover of the Motion, Camille Robinson-Regis, ceded her speaking time to the PM. 

Persad-Bissessar accused the government of trying to “bully” the Opposition into supporting the Bills, reiterating her party’s criticism of the proposed legislation, which she argues is gutted and fails to honour the wants of the people of Tobago.

Responding at a press conference in the Red House building, Dr. Rowley said the Opposition had shown scant disregard in regards to contributing to the important debate.

“Those Bills can die when the Parliament dissolves at the end of the year or we can ask that they be extended into the next term, waiting for a day when there is enough parliamentarians in the Parliament who want to give Tobago what the Bills contain,” he said.

“The Opposition Leader is to be called upon by the national community to do her job or give it to somebody else who is prepared to do it,” the PM said.