By Prior Beharry
SENATE President Christine Kangaloo has ruled that National Security Minister Stuart Young did not mislead the Upper House in response to a question by Opposition Senator Wade Mark.
She made her ruling on Wednesday after Mark alleged after Young attempted to deceive the Upper House on May 13 and spoke an untruth in relation to a meeting he had US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Joseph Mondello.
Young was responding to an urgent question to the Prime Minister.
In light of a recent statement issued by the US Embassy that this country violated the Rio Treaty by allowing the Venezuelan Vice-President to land here, has the Government initiated discussions with the US with a view to averting any repercussions?”
Mark asked a supplemental question:
“Madam President can the Minister indicate whether the Government of T&T is conscious of a statement issued by the US Government concerning this country’s violation of the Rio Treaty? Is the Government of T&T aware of the issuing of such a statement by the US Government?”
Young then responded:
“As I have said Madam Speaker we continue to have open channels of communication. In fact last week the US Government’s head and top diplomat in T&T, that is, the Ambassador, not any underling who may or may not be speaking to the media; the US Ambassador had a conversation with me as a representative at the Cabinet level of the Government and there were other conversations had and there was no raising of the breach of any Treaty. I would just put the position that all that seems and all that they seem to anchor their mischief in may not be exactly what they believe it to be.”
On Wednesday, Mark also read the press release issued by Mondello:
“Normally I do not comment on private conversations with host government officials. Since the Government has spoken publicly about my May 6 conversation with Minister Young, though, I wish to affirm that I expressed concern to the Minister in that conversation about the consistency of Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to Port-of-Spain with Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations as a party to the Rio Treaty. Article 20 of the Rio Treaty makes it unambiguously clear that all measures imposed by the Organ of Consultation—like the travel restrictions on Ms Rodriguez—are binding on all treaty parties, whether or not they voted in favour of such measures.”
Mark Senate said, “From the above it appears that the Minister’s response was not merely a contradiction to Ambassador Mondello’s statement, but regrettably it was an untruth, seeking to mislead this honourable Senate.”
In her ruling, Kangaloo said, “The Minister of National Security, in responding to the matter raised by Senator Mark and in reference to the media release cited by Senator Mark, used the opportunity to explain his earlier response given on May 13. The Minister also unequivocally stated in clarifying his response that he had no intention to mislead the House.”
She said, “It is well recognised that one of the key ingredients to be established when it is alleged that a Member is in contempt on the grounds of misleading the House, is that it must be established that the Member making the statement knew at the time the statement was made that it was incorrect and that in making it the Member intended to mislead the House.”
Kangaloo said, “The Minister, having been provided with the opportunity by Senator Mark to elucidate on his previous statements made on May 13, demonstrated via his response on the 19th of May 2020 that there was no intention to mislead or deceive the House.
“There is also no tangible, independently proved confirmation that it was the Minister’s intention to deliberately mislead this House. 9)
“Therefore, I rule that there is no prima facie basis to support a question of privilege.”