“No one can instruct me to apologise except the honourable Prime Minister and no such instruction has been given,” Ramlogan told reporters yesterday afternoon in the face of reports that the Chief Whip was about to intervene.

Questioned by reporters after an appointment ceremony for the new Law Reform Commission at Cabildo Chambers, Port-of-Spain, Ramlogan remained defiant over the issue of whether he should apologise to former prime minister Patrick Manning.

Ramlogan had last week asked the San Fernando MP “where the piano gone?” as he piloted a motion relating to measures to tackle corruption. The piano–one of ten that had been ordered by the University of Trinidad and Tobago–was found a day later at the Diplomatic Centre, which adjoins the Prime Minister’s Residence at St Ann’s.

“I have no intention of issuing an apology,” Ramlogan said. “You can only apologise when you have done something wrong. I don’t see that I have done anything wrong in exposing the fact that ten grand pianos were secretly purchased, utilising funds which were earmarked to provide education by a university. For two years the country knew nothing about it.”

Newsday understands the Chief Whip, Moonilal, was due yesterday evening to speak with Ramlogan on the issue of making a statement which would serve to stave off a disciplinary motion from Opposition MPs.

At Cabildo Chambers yesterday, Ramlogan appeared sombre.

“Not a single (piano) recital was held by anyone who now claims it was for that purpose,” he told reporters. “People say that I got my facts wrong but they choose to overlook that...ten pianos were purchased and nobody knew anything about it. That is the single most important fact in this and the emphasis and spotlight should be focused on the wastage of public funds.”

Ramlogan suggested that it is the previous administration who should apologise.

“The first port of call for an apology would be an apology for the misuse and vulgar abuse of public funds to purchase ten grand pianos at a time when the country did not have enough beds in the hospitals,” he said. “When that apology is given to the people of this country then any other apology will be considered an appropriate act.” The Attorney General was not of the view that it was his job to investigate the whereabouts of the piano before going public with the issue last week. “There is absolutely nothing wrong in asking the person who secretly purchased it and who would know where he left it to assist us in telling us where it is. The fact of the matter is the piano was supposed to be in the Residence and there is no piano in the Residence. So Mr Manning, quite properly in my view, indicated where he left the piano, which is at the Diplomatic Centre, which is not part of the Prime Minister’s Residence and that is the end of the matter.”

He added, “Quite frankly, if the piano has to be put to good use I may consider taking piano lessons myself.” With Opposition MPs this week threatening to call for a disciplinary motion against him for allegedly abusing his Parliament privileges by making the piano allegation, Rammlogan said he was not of the view that there are sufficient grounds for such a motion. Asked if he thought there were adequate grounds for a motion of privilege to be raised against him, Ramlogan said, “No, none whatsoever. I think the Opposition has clearly misconceived the role of the Opposition and that they don’t understand what I said in Parliament. The fact that I may have asked Mr Manning for some assistance to locate the whereabouts of the piano he purchased with taxpayers’ a matter that I consider to be appropriate,” he said.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said Opposition MPs are free to bring a motion against Ramlogan. But he did not explicitly express approval for such a motion.

Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert told Newsday he would review the Hansard to plan a course of action. Ramlogan was expected to issue an apology at yesterday’s sitting of Parliament, but he did not. During the sitting, though, he several times referred to the issue. For instance, in winding up debate on legislation to extend the maximum time a person may be incarcerated without bail, Ramlogan criticised the Opposition and referred to the piano issue while simultaneously discussing the controversy over the State’s Christmas hamper distribution drive.

“The one thing we will not do is distribute pianos throughout this country,” Ramlogan quipped at about 6.30 pm. “The cost of one piano will pay for the entire distribution of hampers.” Near the start of the 1.30 pm sitting, Ramlogan also referred to the issue, without apology, as he engaged in crosstalk with Rowley.

Ramlogan’s failure to apologise came even as his Cabinet colleague, Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh, apologised in Parliament to Rowley on an unrelated issue.



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