Rowley who is known by many as “the rottweiler” barked accusations left, right and centre during an interview yesterday, attacking Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert as being “out of place”, accusing Attorney General John Jeremie of “misrepresenting” the truth and knocking Finance Minister Karen Nunez Tesheira over the property tax.
The one-time Trade and Industry Minister said contrary to Manning’s public assurances, Manning is carrying out a personal attack against him in the glare of the public eye.
Rowley’s comments came one day after Manning described his criticisms of the Property Tax Bill and the Valuation of Land (Amendment) Bill 2009 as “emotional” and “entirely without foundation”. In Parliament last Friday, Rowley criticised the legislation, warning that it will spike property rates and cause high property bills.
At a press conference on Monday, Manning hinted that PNM disciplinary action was in the works for the MP for his contribution to the heated debate. Manning noted that if PNM party rules were broken, then there was a process to deal with it. “It is not a personal anything,” Manning said.
“He has said it is not personal,” Rowley said, “but there is a motive behind all this. Members of the public will come to their own conclusions. This is a man who has attacked me personally, slandered me, come to the Parliament and accused me of corruption, sent me to a commission of inquiry and he comes now and says, ‘not me, I don’t do anything personal’?
“Now he is directing the Cabinet. And if my colleagues want to do that it is fine. But my oath of office is to act without fear or favour, malice or ill will in the interest of my constituents and I have no fear in discharging my responsibilities.”
When debate on the legislation continued on Monday afternoon, Imbert, Jeremie, Nunez-Tesheira, as well as Minister of Legal Affairs Peter Taylor and Information Minister Neil Parsanlal, all attacked Rowley for speaking critically about the bill. Rowley noted that Imbert was taking notes from Manning shortly before the tea-break on Monday.
“Every time I speak in the Parliament, Imbert takes issue because he does not like what I say,” Rowley said. “But come on, this is the Parliament. This is not the Imbert chorus line. In a parliament, a member of parliament has to represent their constituents. Imbert is quite happy defending Calder Hart and Udecott, but that is his choice.
“I am not going to be phased by threats coming from Imbert and anybody else. I am a responsible member of the PNM and I am doing the PNM a great service by respecting my oath of office. If they want to disregard their oath of office and do people’s dirty work, let them do that.
“I am not a ‘yes man’ or a schoolboy. But I am being accused of misbehaviour like a schoolboy. I’m not a schoolboy. If they attack me or cast aspersions on my character, I will defend myself,” Rowley said.
Rowley claimed Imbert, who is the Lower House Leader of Government Business, gave him notes before Rowley rose to speak on Friday.
“Half an hour before (on Friday) he offered me a package from which I should speak,” Rowley said. “I have been a member of Parliament for 23 years and I have never relied on any member to give me a speech as to what I should say in Parliament. I think he’s out of place.
“It is clear that there are people carrying out instructions. I am carrying out my instructions according to my oath of office. I am not prepared to treat as advice notes from Colm Imbert. He is telling me what I am supposed to say in the Parliament? What I say in Parliament is not for him. I determine what I say on behalf of my constituents and if I am reporting that my constituents are angry and resentful that is me reporting for my constituents. I simply represented my constituency.
“(Imbert) wants to criticise me for taking issue with Calder Hart and Udecott, but that’s part of my job. Udecott is a state enterprise, there are potential corrupt practices there and if he wants to turn a blind eye to that, that’s him. Rather than deal with that, he’s coming to psychoanalyse me.”
Of Jeremie’s claim that Rowley had broken assurances “implied or expressly” given in a PNM party caucus early last week, Rowley said Jeremie was misrepresenting the facts and denied breaking from the caucus or giving any assurance that he would support the bills.
“I don’t want John Jeremie misrepresenting my position. They are hell bent on depicting me in the way that they want me to be. He said I betrayed my caucus but I did no such thing,” Rowley said. He said he indicated in caucus his intention to speak on the legislation, asked for copies of the bills and asked Imbert for a speaking time slot. “He told me sometime around 9 pm (on Friday). I said ‘fine’, I did not break the line and stand up,” Rowley said.
The MP then turned his guns on Nunez-Tesheira, who on Monday denied Rowley’s claim that the new property tax regime is a revenue-earning device.
“The Minister of Finance makes a big song and dance saying it is not a revenue gathering measure. But last year the land and building tax raised about $100 million and you now expect to raise $250 million.
“How could that not be seen as a revenue measure? They are all jumping at my throat attacking me. I should not be their target. Even as they are attacking me, they are making it more confusing,” Rowley said. “Instead of dealing with those issues they jumping on my case. I am not the issue.”
And as for PNM disciplinary action, Rowley said, “that is entirely up to them and is the least of my worries. I am a member of the PNM protected by the PNM constitution and as long as I do not break the party’s or country’s laws, I am happy with my performance.”