Uproar in Trinidad Parliament over Rowley’s ‘traitor’ comment

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks with Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi during a parliament sitting yesterday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley yes­ter­day ac­cused the Op­po­si­tion of try­ing to un­der­mine Gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts at med­i­ta­tion in Venezuela’s on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

He caused an up­roar when he used the word “trai­tors” in his re­sponse to a ques­tion from Na­pari­ma MP Rod­ney Charles. Row­ley with­drew the state­ment fol­low­ing loud ob­jec­tions by the Op­po­si­tion.

The dra­ma un­fold­ed af­ter Charles asked how soon Cari­com ex­pect­ed to bring op­pos­ing par­ties in the Venezuela cri­sis to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

Row­ley shot back that the Op­po­si­tion spent “all their time try­ing to un­der­mine the nat­ur­al ini­tia­tive with re­spect to find­ing me­di­a­tion as a re­place­ment for in­ter­ven­tion.”

He said Cari­com was in no po­si­tion to bring any­one to the ta­ble.

“Cari­com has ini­ti­at­ed diplo­mat­ic in­ter­ven­tion to put an al­ter­na­tive to the sit­u­a­tion where­by me­di­a­tion is be­ing of­fered. Mean­ing­ful di­a­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tions are to fol­low,” he said.

Row­ley said coun­tries that have tak­en a non-in­ter­ven­tion po­si­tion “have ac­cept­ed the ini­tia­tive and in the very near fu­ture more de­fin­i­tive in­for­ma­tion would be avail­able with re­spect to the ini­tia­tives of Uruguay, Mex­i­co and Cari­com.”

Not sat­is­fied with Row­ley’s re­sponse, Charles ac­cused the PM of “im­put­ing im­prop­er mo­tives to the UNC.” Row­ley shot back call­ing the Op­po­si­tion “trai­tors” which trig­gered the up­roar.

“How could you call us trai­tors in this House?” Oropouche East MP Roodal Mooni­lal shout­ed across the floor.

Speak­er Bridgid An­nisette-George rose from her chair and in­struct­ed Row­ley to with­draw his state­ment.

“I with­draw that state­ment, Madam Speak­er,” a vis­i­bly up­set Row­ley said.

In a fol­low-up ques­tion, Charles asked Row­ley for Gov­ern­ment’s views on Maduro’s state­ment on Russ­ian tele­vi­sion that un­der no cir­cum­stances would he hold fresh elec­tions in Venezuela.

Row­ley said the Gov­ern­ment had “no re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for what Maduro or any per­son says on any tv.”

Charles pressed fur­ther, ask­ing if the Gov­ern­ment or Cari­com had reached out to Juan Guai­do, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly to de­ter­mine if he was amenable to Cari­com’s me­di­a­tion.

“Trinidad and To­ba­go’s po­si­tion is crys­tal clear—we have opened our doors at Cari­com speak­ing with one voice to all sides in the Venezue­lan is­sue un­der the un­der­stand­ing that the dif­fi­cul­ties in Venezuela are the mat­ter for the peo­ple of Venezuela,” Row­ley said.

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