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Manning absent from Parliament

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

Manning absent from Parliament

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Former prime minister Patrick Manning has asked to be excused from todays’s sitting of Parliament where he faces sanctions over remarks he made earlier this year regarding the construction of a house by his successor, Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar.
Parliament is to meet to debate a report from the Privileges Committee about Manning’s statement and to determine what penalties should be imposed against the former head of government.
But in a letter sent to Speaker Wade Mark on Sunday, Manning sought to be excused on the grounds that he would be travelling to Cuba for “medical attention”.
“Those arrangements in Cuba were made some time ago in early April and my travel schedule was firmed up on Wednesday last, the day on which my ticket was purchased,” Manning said in the two-paragraph letter.
Manning said he expects to be back in the country on May 20 “and therefore would like to be excused from all sittings of the House and its Committees during that period”.
Manning was sent to the Privileges Committee following allegations he made in relation to the acquisition of funding for the construction of the private residence of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He had accused her Government of carrying out the agenda of those who financed them in the election campaign, those “who were involved in the drug trade”.
Charging that Government was undermining the anti-drug effort put in place by his administration, Manning had said the private residence cost  TT$150 million (US$25 million) telling legislators “to what conclusion do you expect us to come? They were struggling to build that house before the election”.
The Prime Minister denied the accusation and the Committee, which tabled its report during last Friday’s parliamentary sitting, stated that despite having invited the former prime minister to appear before it to answer the allegations against him and to be heard on numerous occasions, “the Member has refused to respond to the allegations before the Committee and has requested adjournments of the Committee’s proceedings for a variety of reasons”.
The Committee said it exercised “tremendous patience and forbearance” in accommodating Manning, the longest serving parliamentarian and his multiple requests for adjournments of the Committee’s proceedings with respect to this matter.
It said it believed that it had done everything in its power to ensure that he was fully apprised of the allegations made against him and to give him an opportunity to be heard.
Under the parliamentary rules, Manning could be suspended, or reprimanded or made to apologise or he could even be expelled. The Government controls 29 seats in the 41 seats in Parliament. (CMC)