“Let me make it clear from now, there is no grand piano at my residence,” Manning, the San Fernando East MP, said in at media conference he held alone at his office at Coffee Street, San Fernando yesterday.
During Wednesday’s parliamentary sitting, Ramlogan described the purchase of ten grand pianos by the University of Trinidad and Tobago as a “most shameful and disgraceful use of public funds” and revealed one piano, which had been sent to the Prime Minister’s Official Residence and Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s could not be accounted for and asked Manning whether he would be able to assist in locating the piano. The pianos had all been purchased under the Manning administration for use in the national symphony orchestra.
However, in the no-holds barred media briefing, a fired up Manning at first slammed Ramlogan for having a “restricted” cultural view before stating categorically that he did not have the missing grand piano.
“When I left the Prime Minister’s residence, the grand piano was stored on the stage of the diplomatic centre, on the eastern side of that stage, that’s where the grand piano was. And I checked, ladies and gentlemen, and I am able to say to you all, the grand piano was there for some time after I left,” he said. “I have no doubt, and I don’t trust the Attorney General, the next thing that you might hear is that the police have been given a search warrant to search my house looking for a grand piano, so let me make it clear from now, there is no grand piano at my residence.”
Manning said Ramlogan should have addressed his question about the piano to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Manning also said he may be suspended by Government for three months and cited the decision by Speaker Wade Mark to send him before the Privileges Committee for his remarks in the House on November 19 about the cost and funding of a new house of Persad-Bissessar. Once again, Manning raised the issue of a failed attempt by Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon to file a motion of privilege against Persad-Bissessar regarding her statement on the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) last November. Deputy Speaker Fuad Khan turned down Gopee- Scoon’s request on Wednesday saying she had waited too long to file the motion. In a press conference during the sitting of the House on Wednesday, Manning and Gopee-Scoon expressed their disagreement with Khan’s decision.
“The Deputy Speaker took a decision with which I disagree with violently, but I want to say this, I have a matter before the Privileges Committee right now and it has come to my attention that the Government’s intention is to suspend me from the Parliament for three months,” Manning said. He was also very critical of what Persad-Bissessar wore to last Friday’s State funeral for Sir Ellis Clarke and said her outfit made her look like “a midnight robber”.
“It is as a result of the work of that institute (Caribbean Fashion Design) that the Prime Minister today could be walking up and down catwalks all over the country, but of course she is not the best example to use, had she been she would not have walked up Frederick Street looking like the midnight robber,” Manning criticised.
He questioned whether Government was also misleading the nation regarding the search for Reverend Juliana Pena and noted Pena may not even be hiding from the security services. He said with SAUTT, a 7,000 strong police force, SIA and Special Branch at its disposal he found difficult to believe Government could not find Pena.
“You have all kinds of security capabilities in this country and one person, a woman, who incidentally I understand isn’t even hiding from them, cannot be found. Now if you believe that then you might well believe in the midnight robber or in witches,” Manning said.
Commenting on the disclosure in the House that he had received a State vehicle from Government, Manning said he was first given one from the Prime Minister’s residence that was eight years old after last year’s general elections but it developed mechanical problems after three months. He was then given a replacement from among the fleet of vehicles which his administration had bought for two summits in 2009. He claimed Persad-Bissessar had reneged on a commitment to provide security to him. Persad-Bissessar had made this promise after PNM supporters verbally abused Manning at Balisier House days after the May 24 election last year.