Prime Minister Patrick Manning is to be investigated by Parliament's Privileges Committee to determine whether he misled the House of Representatives in a statement made last week relative to the UNC's tenure in Government. House Speaker Barendra Sinanan yesterday granted Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar's request for Manning to be referred to the committee. "I consider there's sufficient raised by the MP for Siparia (Persad-Bissessar) that warrants this matter to be referred to the Committee of Privileges for its examination and report," Sinanan said. Persad-Bissessar raised the issue in the House yesterday with respect to statements Manning made in his presentation to Parliament last week concerning a church being built in the Heights of Guanapo.
Persad-Bissessar noted that Manning had said repeatedly that the UNC Government gave land to "one Baptist group" and that was 25 acres. Persad-Bissessar said that information was inaccurate. She said two other statements by Manning were untrue "in at least two material respects." Persad-Bissessar said: "The truth is that two Baptist groups were given land and not one as alleged by the member. The truth is that it was less than five acres of land that was given to each group and not 25 acres as the member alleges." Persad-Bissessar produced two leases of March 2000 in connection with the issue. She said the two memoranda are public documents which could have been easily obtained to verify the number of Baptist groups which were given lands and the amount of lands given to each.
The Opposition Leader said from the context of his statement, it was clear Manning had made enquiries about Cabinet records showing organisations which were given State lands in the past. "Consequently, as head of the cabinet, upon inquiries with respect to documents within the custody and control of the Cabinet, the Honourable Member knew or ought to have known that his statements ... were untrue." Persad-Bissessar claimed that Manning in his statement conveyed information to the House that was inaccurate and which he knew or ought to have known was inaccurate... "And thereby the honourable member misled the House," Persad-Bissessar claimed. Persad- Bissessar added, "In the circumstances it is my respectful view that there are valid reasons to question whether by his statements the honourable member for San Fernando East, Prime Minister Patrick Manning has committed a breach of privilege and/or contempt of the House by misleading the House in the manner set out.
"Consequently, I move that this matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee of the House to examine and inquire into the facts and then lay before this House a report containing the evidence, findings and recommendations so the House may take appropriate measures to punish the offence in a proper manner." House Speaker Sinanan who said he had considered the matter, recalled a ruling he made in November 25, 2008. Sinanan said this ruling stated that for a misleading of the House to be deliberate, there must be something in the "incorrect" statement that indicated the intention to mislead. Where however, the MP could be presumed to have personal knowledge for the facts stated and makes the statement in a situation of some formality–for example via a personal explanation presumption to mislead the House will more readily arise, he noted. UNC MPs thumped their desks in approval of the announcement.