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Letter to Editor: Dr Rowley set right example in response to ‘missing pay cheque’

The following response to a Trinidad Guardian editorial on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s public statement on unpaid salaries during his suspension from Parliament was submitted to Letter to the Editor by David Pierre:

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. (Copyright News.Gov.TT)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright News.Gov.TT)

Reference is made to an editorial titled ‘Dr Rowley’s missing pay cheque’ which appeared in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian newspaper on 18 June 2016. I am appalled by the general contents of the editorial as, once again in this country, we seek to blame the victim.

The editorial deals with the announcement by Dr Rowley at a PNM political meeting on 14 June 2016 that he intends to pursue his claim for salary denied to him during the period of his suspension from Parliament.

The editorial suggests that Dr Rowley should leave the matter in the hands of his attorneys for private conversation between the attorneys and the Parliamentary authorities.

The editor asserts that the issue ought not to have been pursued on the political platform in the manner in which Dr Rowley did so [and] implied that Dr Rowley’s behaviour was: “wajank” – crude and boisterous.

The editorial also suggested that his language was ‘…inflammatory, threatening the stability of the state… casually promoting constitutional confusion’ and he was ‘… using his position as head of government to force the Parliament, the Speaker—who he placed before the Parliament for election—to pay him what he believes is his due’.

The editor suggested that the charge could be made that the Prime Minister was setting a bad example for ‘ordinary villages’ and ‘labour leaders’ who may adopt similar behaviour to get their just due.

Photo: The Trinidad Guardian logo.
Photo: The Trinidad Guardian logo.

The editor seems to have forgotten that this fiasco did not originate with Dr Rowley, but was perpetrated on the State and Dr Rowley by the PP (UNC) Administration. That Administration obviously did not give serious consideration/was reckless to the likely constitutional and other implications of their unprecedented actions which a proper study of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conventions would have clarified.

The Government, by definition, has no confidence in the Opposition. However, the editor could find no space in his editorial to admonish such actions. Dr Rowley is simply seeking to enforce his rights and he is entitled to do so as a citizen of this country.

He was simply pointing to the possible consequences of a failure to grant him what he regards as his just due, including a possible declaration by the courts that all document signed by him as Leader of the Opposition during that period were null and void and of no effect. This cannot be regarded as promoting constitutional confusion.

Moreover, the suggestion that Dr Rowley can intimidate the Speaker is very insulting to the Speaker. In effect the editor is suggesting that the Speaker is incompetent, weak and biased in favour of the PNM.

I do not agree, given the negative connotation attributed to such words, that the Prime Minister’s language was inflammatory/ boisterous/crude/ haranguing. He was, however, very forthright and passionate on the matter.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

I expected no less from someone in a leadership position. Indeed, he has an obligation to speak out. If Dr Rowley cannot stand up and be counted when an injustice is committed against him, who will have any confidence in his ability to stand up when the rights of other citizens are violated?

The inference can be drawn from the editorial that the matter is purely legal and has no place on a political platform. I should remind the editor that the legal system is slow and cumbersome and such matters take years to be concluded, by which time the population may have forgotten about the issue.

Moreover, in the event that Dr Rowley is successful, the State (taxpayers) will pay (not PP/UNC). In this context, the occasional reference to this matter on the political platform ensures that the political consequences of similar actions in the future will be ever present in the minds of errant politicians and serve as a deterrent. It is a guard against history repeating itself.

Dr Rowley is the aggrieved party and he has every right to speak on the matter and to not just leave it up to his attorneys. The victims of injustice must not be asked to move on with their lives, remain silent about their situation and, by so doing, allow their perpetrators to repeat the offence and/or victimise others who may not be unaware of their reputation. Rape victims know what that means.

Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa. (Courtesy News.Gov.TT)
Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

Some of the validating elites in this society are of the view that contributions to radio and television call-in programmes, letters to the editor, mediation and litigation are the only legitimate avenues to be undertaken in the pursuit of justice, notwithstanding protection in the law for actions such as marches and strikes.

The colonial establishment recognised that to protect itself from the overwhelming numbers of the masses, it had to ensure that it adopted a policy of divide and rule, and also impose severe restrictions on the right to strike and assemble, ostensibly for good public order.

Every opportunity was taken by some of the validating elites in colonial times, a practice which continues today,  to widely disseminate the view and thereby ‘brainwash’ members of the working class that strikes and marches were under no circumstances sensible options, and were always destructive and counter-productive. Accordingly, those who pursue such actions were treasonous, unpatriotic thugs.

Nevertheless, peaceful, non-violent strikes and marches are legitimate forms of protest action in this and other democratic countries. Indeed, many of the political, social and economic advances made in this country were on the backs of such protest actions.

In this regard, nearly all editors have been on the wrong side of history.

Photo: An All Trinidad General Trade Workers Union protest. (Courtesy ATGTWU)
Photo: An All Trinidad General Trade Workers Union protest.
(Courtesy ATGTWU)

Dr Rowley never advocated that ‘ordinary villages’ and ‘labour leaders’ break the law in pursuit of their rights. He never suggested that aggrieved persons block roads, burn tyres or destroy other people’s property, or do anything that was not in conformity with the law, in pursuance of their rights.

I, therefore, do not understand the reference to ‘ordinary villages’ and ‘labour leaders’ (i.e. the reference to the need to move the country forward and establish quality standards of good governance) if their actions are in conformity with the law.

There appears to be a concerted effort among some of the validating elites to paint Dr Rowley as uncouth (uncultured/uncivilised). The expression is often used that his behaviour is unbecoming of a Prime Minister.

That is nothing but a not so veiled attempt to tarnish the image of Dr Rowley by innuendo and otherwise, given among other things, the socio-economic background of his childhood.

I have never met Dr Rowley, but he is a public figure and based on what I have seen of him he strikes me as someone who will not ‘play deceitful’ or ‘put water in his mouth’ to tell you how he feels about any matter. That personality trait endears him to many.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on 7 September 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

However, there are those persons who find deceit to be charming. To that extent, he may be a radical break with the past. In this regard, do not forget the context in which he was castigated as engaging in “wajang” behaviour. He was seeking to defend good governance and the country’s interests in the matter concerning UDECOTT/Mr Calder Hart.

He has proven himself to be a courageous fighter who was prepared to challenge his own Prime Minister/political leader in pursuit of truth and justice. This led to the removal of Mr Calder Hart from office, the establishment of a  commission of enquiry, startling revelations,  recommendations for better quality standards of governance, and the defeat of the PNM in the subsequent general elections.

Dr Rowley appears to me to be a serious, sober-minded, hard working individual who is committed to the well-being of the country.

I am deeply disappointed that the editor of a newspaper that professes to be the guardian of democracy could demonstrate such insensitivity and lack of balance that I initially thought his editorial was a media release from the UNC.

It is my sincere hope that, with the exception of excrement, the editor will give better thought as to what he commits to paper in the future.

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (right) swears in Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. (Copyright Reuters)
Photo: President Anthony Carmona (right) swears in Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Reuters)

Editor’s Note: The above letter was submitted to editor@wired868.com by David Pierre. Letter writers are urged to keep their submissions between 400 and 800 words.

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159 comments

  1. Earl Best

    “However, there are those persons who find deceit to be charming. To that extent, he may be a radical break with the past. In this regard, do not forget the context in which he was castigated as engaging in “wajang” behaviour. He was seeking to defend good governance and the country’s interests in the matter concerning UDECOTT/Mr Calder Hart.”
    There is a lot of truth in what you say in here, Mr Pierre, especially about the tone of the editorial. However, methinks thou sees Mr Rowley through lenses that are more than a little rose-tinted. Are you aware of who the Rowleys’ co-conspirator was in the Landate affair? Do you seriously believe that the attack on Calder Hart was motivated by a genuine concern for “good governance”?

    I agree that the editorial was completely unfair to the current PM.; however, I emphatically do not share the view that the current PM’s hands are as clean as you seem to want to make them out to be. May I remind you that one of his speeches in the Parliament was excerpted and used – without distortion! – as an advertisement for the UNC in the 2010 election. I suspect that that is without precedent in the annals of electoral politics in T&T and that is hardly a compliment, to my way of thinking, to Dr Rowley.

  2. Anthony boy………… no amount of evidence or facts you provide can ever sway the tribe from condemning Rowley for demanding his salary or cause them to condemn the former administration for causing it to be illegally withheld.

  3. I’m beginning to get the impression that people’s opposition to the the MP for Diego Martin West’s petition for his illegally withheld wages is based solely on their political affiliation and plain ole spite………in fact to be honest that’s the impression I got from the very beginning.

    • And Trinidadians tend to be so disingenuous, we can blind ourselves at will in the interest of protecting the Tribe at the expense of the country.

      Perhaps this matter should have been taken to court so that a judgement could have been made once and for all regarding the legality or illegality of the then Opposition Leader’s removal from Parliament.

    • It is in the hands of his lawyers.
      What would have happened is a journalist would have gotten hold of the story and put their own spin on it. Rowley announces it at a political meeting. Complete with his antics. And it becomes about the delivery style and the content gets mostly ignored in local media. Wired868 is the only wall Ive commented on. I cannot be bothered elsewhere.

    • Sometimes I think Trinidadians are beyond the reach of decency, thoughtfulness and logic.

      That his removal was at least wrong should have been plain to all.

    • I have no idea what political affiliation and or delivery with antics have or has to do with law but, we all know what transpired and the mechanism in parliament which resulted in the then Opposition Leader’s suspension. As far as I am concerned, delivery is a non issue, the legitimacy of his suspension now becomes a legal matter and I am sure the law will prevail.

    • Mervyn it has nothing to do with law or antics or anything else for that matter………it is the tribe’s culture to hate with extreme prejudice and without reason or reservation it’s political rivals and particularly their political rival’s leader.
      As far as they’re concerned any misfortune that befalls him whether it be accidental, self inflicted or purposely inflicted by others is well deserved.

    • While I agree with all you said, I believe, from his (the opposition Leader) perspective, he is due payment for the period of suspension, probably not as an MP, which your theory explained, but certainly as Leader of the Opposition, which as I said, he was appointed by his peers as the person THEY selected as their leader…that is in the Constitution.

    • He was also elected by the constituents of Diego Martin West, the government had no authority to suspend him.

    • That now becomes Kamla Persad Bessessar, may I add..SC, and WADE MARK’S problem, yes the same WADE MARK who did a lousy and biased job as Speaker of the House and now a Senator.

  4. I beg to differ, I don’t believe even The President..Carmona could revoke the Opposition Leader’s appointment because he was the person whom the majority of the opposition in the house had confidence in and therefore supported to have as their leader…I stand corrected.

  5. he was out of parliament not out of office of Leader of Opposition

  6. Geez….The Constitution is supreme. The Doc was the opposition leader, albeit unpaid, after his unjust suspension from the House. No question arises as to whether or not he held that office. His comments were only to make the point. I too think that he should be paid. I too think that he better figure out the best approach and try that instead.

  7. Be all of that as it may, the point is he raised it as a point of concern then, and he’s raising it as a point of concern now. If you have doubts and are acting in the best interest of the country and want to prevent constitutional calamities, no harm in stepping aside and letting a non-ejected member of the house serve as opposition leader.
    If you have doubts, you don’t have to wait for anybody else to confirm them for you.

  8. The revocation of the appointment is only based on the grounds that the opposition MPs no longer have confidence in him and write to the president affirming same with another MP that they do have confidence in.
    That didn’t happen. The President still recognized him as the OL – as such, he should have still been paid in the position.

  9. Not the same grounds for the revocation of the appointment by the president?
    That he’s unsure if he’s legally able to function as opposition leader given what the government has done and to prevent any constitutional calamities…

  10. What were the grounds for him resigning?

  11. The opposition leader can’t resign?

  12. Which is interesting….why DIDN’T he do that…..oh right…Constitution has no room for that crap.
    In any instance, let’s not lose overall focus.
    The damn PP threw him out in the cold for months despite his functions STILL BEING RECOGNISED…..INTERESTING.

  13. The person to revoke the appointment was Carmona. He did nothing. And continued to consult him per his constitutional remit.

  14. If he was unsure, he could have erred on the side of caution and not signed anything.

  15. Not a matter of if he highlighted the flaw or not. Matter of whether HE signed documents he shouldn’t have. The onus is on the person functioning in a job to know whether they are functioning within legal parameters or not.

  16. I don’t understand this whole gushing business about any man, woman or child. They all put their pants on one leg at a time.
    They all do good things and bad things. Everybody makes mistakes.
    I see nothing wrong in saying that someone agrees with this part but not the other part if that is the case.
    That seems to be a mortal sin for some.
    So what if some people don’t like Rowley’s jokes or attempts at showmanship yet still accepts that he is our best choice as PM?

  17. Actually, at the time when he was ejected from the House, he highlighted the flaw.
    No one paid attention.

  18. Don’t know why he didn’t get legal advice regarding whether he was in fact opposition leader at the time or not.
    Would hate to think he got advice and was told that he wasn’t opposition leader but continued to function as such anyway or that he got advice that said he was and is now bringing this up as some sort of constitutional calamity.

  19. Rhoda and Anthony, I was flabbergasted with the accent Rowley put on during parts of his address or statement or whatever. I figured there must be a reason for it. Some sort of insider joke.
    Can you enlighten me?

  20. If the people we elect to lead us behave like idiots in public what do you expect from the citizens of this country?

    I would be considerably upset if I performed in my job and was not compensated as per my contract, so I understand that he has been unfairly treated….I don’t think anyone can dispute that.

    Our Honourable Prime Minister’s wife is a highly respected attorney, so is Farris’s wife…..why didn’t he just have his attorneys fight this battle for him while holding himself in a respectable manner and referring all questions to his legal team.

    Why BACCHANAL UP this injustice and behave Ian Alleyne style?

    He’s holds one of the highest offices in our country and behaved in such a disgustingly embarrassing way.

    This man is highly educated and has been mentored and rubbed shoulders with the upper echelons of our country…..what was he thinking by portraying himself in such a manner?

    Let’s face facts here….he’s not a person who lives pay check to pay check….even not collecting a salary his children are being educated in foreign universities…..so it’s not like his quality of life was affected to the point where he would be enraged to the point of desperation.

    So why behave like this?

    Our public personalities need to set an example for our people, portray themselves in a dignified manner because they are being scrutinized locally and internationally and make us proud.

    Obama behavior please Sir, not Alleyne behavior

    Don’t turn an injustice into a Papi Show

  21. pay small contractors nah pm they hav 2 live 2

  22. I never knew there was a standard of behaviour to request money that was unfairly taken away while you did the work expected …interesting

  23. When public servants are owed money they are told to wait, wait and wait some more. When the PM is owed money he loses his shit and demands his money now? Public servants should follow the example of their leader.

  24. The issue is not only money… If in fact he was not Opposition Leader, then any documents he would have signed would be null and void … Its a point Dr Rowley is trying to prove

  25. So wait……the man’s salary was illegally withheld for an entire month and there are people for whom the issue is how he’s handling it?

    This isn’t just Rowley’s personal issue, and it isn’t just a professional issue either, it’s a constitutional issue for that holds potential ramifications for the very fabric of this democracy.
    A duly elected representative was illegally removed from the House of Representatives by a sitting government and people’s issue is his attitude towards getting his lost wages?

    We’re supposed to be concerned about the attack his illegal removal represented to our democracy.

  26. Thinking about it, no matter where he said it, he would get labelled as bad for rightfully demanding his money no matter where he spoke.
    In my honest view, he could’ve done that in a press conference stating that he’ll be pursuing his money and why without all the political fanfare…..then again, as leader of the PNM, that’s next to impossible.

  27. Id love to see the behaviour of folks on this post if 1 month of their salary was docked for no sane reason. Just one.
    Rowley went for months without a salary. And the issue here is not the abuse of the state but his body language?
    Clearly I need to start back following Monday Night 4 Rum to see how a leader ought to behave.

  28. Meanwhile we giving free housing and HOS collecting his allowance for housing normel normel

  29. Note something interesting, Lasana. Read the editorial 2 days after Dr Rowley’s suspension. It framed the incident almost in the light that he brought this empty censure motion all on himself.
    It’s insane to say the least that they chose to frame it as thus.

  30. Considering who owns the Guardian as well as the makeup of their customer base, it makes sense that they did not consider the open injustice that he has had to deal with…..

  31. Don’t expect a newspaper that gives away free papers everytime a MFO study is being conducted to be honest .

  32. The editorial should have encouraged payment and denounced the witholding of it. He should not have to ask for his money. Pay the man his cacada.

  33. Anytime ppl raise the issue of monies owed to them, they are found to be crass and classless.
    Even when ppl owe you money and busy partying up a storm for carnival.
    Having said that though, idk that it’s the best PR for somebody with relative job security in a high paying position to be talking about outstanding salary when others are getting fired or can’t receive their backpay in full.

    • And therein lies the problem…..

    • Er…. Job security? Lol ok. But as far as I am concetned, it doesn’t matter if you are permanent or not, wrongfully withheld salaries and emoulients are wrongfully withheld salaries and emoulients. He is well within his rights to demand outstanding monies owed to him and he is well within his rights to so inform us about the issue. What was far more important in his statement was the possible constitutional crisis that Kmler and her band of Orcs may have caused by suspending the Leader of the Opposition from Parliament. But you know, we have a penchant for missing the trees for the forest in these parts….

    • He has greater job security than most.
      Never said he doesn’t deserve the money. Just not sure that talking about financial woes with ppl who are worse off than you is best.
      Shared my views on the constitutional part lower in the thread.

  34. I saw a clip of his speech and it’s not the sort of body language and delivery I’m accustomed to from political leaders. At the same time, that doesn’t make him wrong.
    I think the matter was public and politicised from the start. So I don’t see why he should not respond publicly. Albeit carefully.

    • That’s a fair response I can agree with.

    • “…it’s not the sort of body language and delivery I’m accustomed to from political leaders.”
      Because this is not a country that gave us the likes of Panday, Kamla, Ramlogan, Roberts, Warner, Moonilal?

    • I’m remembering Manning and Robinson who I considered more statesmanlike Rhoda Bharath. So maybe I should have been more specific.
      Did you miss the part where I said I didn’t have an issue with him making it a public issue?

    • I did not miss that part.
      Might I also point out that he mounted the platform of a political meeting. And raised the issue at a political meeting. But mindful that he was PM wore no party colours in deference to that hat.
      Im hardpressed to see Rowley’s antics last Tuesday as undignified or unbecoming. Especially when you consider the magnitude of what he is explaining.
      Exaggerated. Yes. Over the top. Maybe.
      And we keep missing the most important aspect of this revelation…the documents that he signed off on as Opp Leader…are they invalid? Did the then sitting govt cause a problem?

    • As per Manning…perhaps he was more “statesmanlike”, but I cannot forgot that he used the privilege of Parliament to assassinate a man’s character because his decisions were challenged publicly. That is Man(ning).

    • Rhoda, I said it is not the body language I am accustomed to. And I said specifically what leaders I was referencing.
      I also said I did not criticise him. It is his style. Not mine. But I accept that everyone has their way.
      Can you show me specifically what you are complaining about with what I said? Because I’m at a loss.

    • Nor did I pay homage to Manning or Robinson. What I said was something else entirely.
      I’ve said before that Panday is utterly charming, Warner is extremely charismatic and Anil is among the cleverest people to have graced in Parliament.
      Does that make me a fan club member of any of those men? I don’t idolise anyone. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses.
      I don’t buy this political swooning business where someone must either be the epitome of good or the epitome of evil.

    • Lasana Liburd,
      In this particular salary issue instance. Specifically last week Tuesday at a PNM meeting in St Joseph…I think the criticism of Rowley’s behaviour is overboard.
      1. Had I been denied my salary for almost 5 months because the govt chose to move a motion of no confidence against me, screw over the tenets of our constitution and use that as an excuse to not pay me a salary, Id have behaved far worse. We forget that only the President and the members of the Opposition get to decide who their leader is?
      2. He was on a political platform. Which often allows for a different kind of behaviour from the Parliament.
      3. Our gauge for appropriate and inappropriate in this country seems to vary often. Rowley often gets held to a much higher standard than his contemporaries. Further, we seem to think that the carnivalesque, and by this I mean our penchant for satire, needs to be stamped out of everything in order to be taken seriously. I tend to disagree.

      As for thinking YOU a fan. I don’t think you are a fanatic of anyone. But if I disagree with the angle on a story, I am going to share it here.
      It is what you and I do. We agree and disagree with each other passionately. No love or respect lost at all.

    • OK Rhoda. Fair enough and it is what I would expect from us. As I said, he is entitled to his own style of delivery.
      I thought the accent and mannerisms for his delivery to be odd and distracting. But, that apart, I had no problem with his stance.
      Although, of course, he would always have to be mindful of a line as PM, as opposed to an ordinary citizen or union leader.

    • Accent as in his Tobago accent or accent as in the emphasis he placed within areas of his delivery?

  35. To me its how he made the issue about it. It lacked taste as a PM. It’s your money do it silently.

    • And when a reporter picked it up from the court and it entered the public domain, people will say it still “lacked taste”.
      As the writer said, it’s less about the money than the potential Constitutional danger the action caused or can cause now.

    • dangers are created by whim…and everything in trinidad becomes a political bacchanal to hold a press conference for. No wonder some people think we are simply a Carnival people.

    • Didnt he make an issue about the salary when he was also Opp Leader to no avail?
      His salary was withdrawn illegally and nothing should be said?
      And there is a prescription for how it should be said?
      This. Place.

  36. I doh even read the guardian, far less the editorials. Who wrote it this time – Hamid Ghany or Gail Alexander?