… Backer case to continue
Minister of Housing and Water Irfaan Ali will today begin his trial for Contempt of Parliament. This comes some eight months after he was committed to the Committee of Privileges. The Committee of Privileges, a Parliamentary body, last met on April 21, last year to deal with a matter involving Deborah Backer. Her matter is also listed for continuation today.
It was the Alliance for Change (AFC) Presidential Candidate who had moved the course of action by way of a parliamentary motion to have Ali committed to the Committee of Privileges.
Ramjattan is subsequently recorded as fuming at the delay in the meeting and described the delay as a perversion of the course of justice.
He said that his party finds the situation to be abominable since the Speaker of the National Assembly did find that a prima facie case was made against Ali.
Ramjattan says that they have damaging evidence against Ali and is certain that the Committee would have no choice but to find Ali guilty once it meets.
Ramjattan had expressed a fear that Parliament will be dissolved and Ali will never be brought to justice.
Parliament will have to be dissolved in August this year.
The AFC Presidential Candidate had speculated that the delay in the meeting of the committee may have something to do with the fact that the Attorney General Charles Ramson who is a member of the committee cannot vote.
He is not a member of the list of candidates and as such is in the National Assembly as a technocrat. The chairman of the Privileges Committee who is also the Speaker of the National Assembly, is also not allowed to vote and as such Ramjattan posited that they government did not want to find themselves in the same quagmire they were in last July when they met.
He explained that back then, they had met on the Debbie Backer issue and the opposition votes had outnumbered the Government votes they sought a deferral.
It was in August last year that Ramjattan made good on his promise to seek to have disciplinary action instituted against Ali and Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh when he moved a motion to have the two government officials placed before the Committee of Privileges.
A prima facie case was not made out against Dr Singh.
The action stems from what Ramjattan said was the deliberate misleading of the National Assembly as it relates to a $4B expenditure that was debated in January, 2010 in a supplementary request but was later found to be spent the previous year.
Ramjattan told the House that in January of last year Ali, during consideration of a Financial Paper, told the House in response to a question from the Alliance For Change’s Sheila Holder, that the provision of $4B “is ready to be spent for Housing Development.”
This Ramjattan said was meant to suggest that the monies were yet to be spent. But subsequently in February last year when the Budget Estimates were produced, it was realised that the monies had already been disbursed since the previous year.
Ramjattan told the Speaker of the House when he presented his motion that when the Estimates of the 2010 Budget were being considered in February the Housing Minister, “evaded, avoided and flagrantly refused to answer questions put to him concerning when exactly the $4B was spent, thereby failing to offer any credible clarification.
Ramjattan in his motion called for the House to signal its unanimous disapproval of Ali’s misleading statement and asked that the matter be referred to the Privileges Committee in keeping with the Parliamentary Standing.
He wanted by way of the motion to have Ali found in contempt of “this Honourable House in relation to the said statement and a determination as to the sanction that should be taken against Irfaan Ali for misleading this Honourable House.”
Speaker of the House Ralph Ramkarran in his ruling told the members gathered that a prima facie case was found to be made out against the Housing Minister for him to be committed to the Committee of Privileges.
The Speaker did caution that his ruling did not mean that Ali was guilty of any of the allegations against him but simply that there was enough merit in the accusations to have him be asked to defend himself in that Committee of Privileges.
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