Moonilal to challenge Privileges body

Op­po­si­tion MP Dr Roodal Mooni­lal is ques­tion­ing the le­gal­i­ty of Fri­day's Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee tri­bunal, not­ing two of its mem­bers were key play­ers in the al­leged in­frac­tion that land­ed him there.

Mooni­lal was re­ferred to the com­mit­tee af­ter a heat­ed ex­change dur­ing the Stand­ing Fi­nance Com­mit­tee stage of the Bud­get de­bate in Par­lia­ment last month. In the cross-talk, Mooni­lal seemed to tell Laven­tille West MP Fitzger­ald Hinds "dat is why snake have lead for you."

Hinds felt threat­ened by that com­ment and MP for Arou­ca/Mal­oney Camille Robin­son-Reg­is moved a mo­tion to have him re­ferred to the com­mit­tee. Af­ter House Speak­er Bridgid An­nisette-Geroge agreed a strong case had been made, Mooni­lal was re­ferred to the com­mit­tee on No­vem­ber 2, 2018.

Both Robin­son-Reg­is and Hinds sit on the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee. How­ev­er, Hinds on Thurs­day con­firmed he will re­cuse him­self from that sit­ting.

Robin­son-Reg­is on Thurs­day said An­nisette-George and Port-of-Spain North/St Ann's West, Stu­art Young would re­main on the com­mit­tee and Hinds would be re­placed. The com­mit­tee is sup­posed to in­clude two of Mooni­lal's col­leagues but on­ly Dr Su­ruj Ram­bachan has been named so far.

Guardian Me­dia asked Robin­son-Reg­is if, as the mover of the mo­tion, she too would re­cuse her­self but she did not re­spond.

Mooni­lal told Guardian Me­dia that based on the in­her­ent bias of the com­po­si­tion of the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee, he would legal­ly chal­lenge any de­ter­mi­na­tion it makes.

Chief among Mooni­lal's con­cerns is the fact that the main play­ers in his re­fer­ral to the com­mit­tee are the same peo­ple met­ing out a de­ter­mi­na­tion on whether he crossed the civ­il line dur­ing the de­bate.

"Any par­tic­i­pa­tion by this mem­ber in this process will vi­ti­ate the pro­ceed­ings of the com­mit­tee and ren­der its de­ci­sion un­law­ful," Mooni­lal said in re­la­tion to Robin­son-Reg­is' par­tic­i­pa­tion.

He said as Robin­son-Reg­is was the mover of the mo­tion, it should be clear to any "fair-mind­ed and in­formed ob­serv­er" that she would have de­ter­mined the mo­tion had mer­it. He said her would in­evitably lead to the con­clu­sion that she was "pros­e­cu­tor, judge, ju­ry and ex­e­cu­tion­er."

Mooni­lal had al­so com­plained about Hinds' par­tic­i­pa­tion be­fore he told Guardian Me­dia Thurs­day evening that he will re­cuse him­self.

Mooni­lal said he al­so spoke to his lawyers to de­ter­mine whether be­ing sent to the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee was an abuse of pow­er.

On the day of the crosstalk, An­nisette-George di­rect­ed both Mooni­lal and Hinds to leave the de­bate. She said then that the de­bate should "move on."

Mooni­lal be­lieves this state­ment by An­nisette-George demon­strat­ed that she de­lib­er­at­ed and sanc­tioned him on the mat­ter al­ready.

"This was the sanc­tion that was con­sid­ered ap­pro­pri­ate by the Speak­er. In those cir­cum­stances, it would be an abuse of process and a breach of the pro­tec­tion of the law and due process guar­an­tee for me to now be sub­ject­ed to and placed in jeop­ardy a sec­ond time for the same al­leged wrong­do­ing," he said.

Mooni­lal's le­gal team is ex­pect­ed to present a let­ter de­tail­ing his con­cerns to the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee be­fore it meets with Mooni­lal Fri­day.

- by Renuka Singh

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