A day later, the piano was found in the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
Ramlogan’s apology comes as the PNM moves to raise a matter of privilege against him for misleading the House on that issue.
Government sources yesterday said Government Chief Whip, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal has been assigned to advise the AG on the manner in which he should frame his apology to the House.
In the wake of his statement, Ramlogan insisted he never accused Manning of taking the piano and saw no need to apologise for his remarks. Ramlogan maintained the issue was the wastage of taxpayers’ monies to buy the pianos.
Newsday understands senior Government members felt embarrassed when it was disclosed that the piano had never gone missing and were disappointed that Ramlogan was unwilling to apologise.
They noted the example of Justice Minister Herbert Volney who apologised to the House for statements made in relation to the provision of a residence for a member of the Judiciary during the Budget debate on September 16, 2010. Volney was spared being referred to the Privileges Committee after he apologised. Government hopes to avoid Ramlogan being subject of a motion of privilege and he has been advised to apologise.
“We are all aware that the AG is new to public life and he needs guidance, so we are all going to pitch in and assist him on his future statements,” a Government source said yesterday.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said any one of the party’s 12 MPs in the House can raise a matter of privilege against Ramlogan but he did not know whether this would happen today or at Friday’s sitting of the House. Rowley disclosed he was focussing on preparing a motion on the adjournment of today’s sitting of the House that will deal with the alleged behaviour of Police Service Commission chairman Nizam Mohammed towards a police officer last year when Mohammed was reportedly cited for a traffic violation.
Parliament sources yesterday said Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert and Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon requested copies of Ramlogan’s contribution in the House from Hansard.
Contacted yesterday, Imbert confirmed he requested a copy of Ramlogan’s contribution while Gopee-Scoon said she had not. Imbert said, “If he has committed a contempt (that is, the deliberate misleading of the House), I will file a motion of privilege, but if he has merely been irresponsible and reckless, he may be able to escape the Privileges Committee.”
“I have read the Hansard record of the AG’s introduction in the debate on the legislative proposals for an anti-corruption commission and I have also read the end of his winding-up.
I am still to receive the first part of his winding-up from the Parliament, but from what I have read so far, he definitely insinuated that a piano worth approximately $1 million had gone missing from the Prime Minister’s residence and he also insinuated that Mr Manning might know of its whereabouts,” Imbert continued.
Imbert added that although Ramlogan “sailed very close to the wind, from what I have read so far, he stopped short of saying that Mr Manning stole the piano.”
“When I receive the last part of his Hansard, I will know whether he has in fact committed a contempt of the House or just merely been reckless.”
Contacted yesterday, Deputy Speaker Dr Fuad Khan said he has not received correspondence from any PNM MP about raising a matter of privilege against Ramlogan at today’s sitting which begins at 1.30 pm. Khan reiterated that if such a request comes before him, he will deal with it.
Khan is deputising for Speaker Wade Mark who was due to return last night from London.
Should the matter be raised on Friday, Mark would recuse himself to allow Khan to adjudicate on the matter since Khan was the presiding officer in the House last Wednesday when Ramlogan made his statement.
Yesterday other PNM parliamentarians said the privilege issue needed to be carefully examined and Ramlogan’s behaviour left a lot to be desired. Speaking to Newsday during the tea break in the Senate, Opposition Senator Pennelope Beckles said she was aware that Imbert was saying that Ramlogan’s contribution needed to be read carefully to determine what he actually said.
Noting the piano has since been found at the Diplomatic Centre where it was originally, Beckles said, “The people in the Lower House will do a careful reading, certainly to ensure that if a decision is made it’s the right one.”
Opposition Senator Fitzgerald Hinds said he would support any decision made by the caucus to raise a matter of privilege against Ramlogan. Outside of that, Hinds described Ramlogan’s behaviour as that of “a hotheaded politician not making a basic inquiry.”
“A piano is not a ten cent coin or a pin that could really be hidden any place. We do not expect that kind of behaviour from the AG of the Republic, The AG holds very serious office. Hiss duty is to uphold the law and the Constitution.
Opposition Senator Faris Al Rawi described Ramlogan’s actions as “the continuation of irresponsibility on his part.” “He who alleges must prove,” Al-Rawi stated. La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffery described Ramlogan’s actions in the House last week as “a political fiasco.” “We know what was inferred,” Jeffery stated.