It is our opinion nonetheless, that there was no reason for the Government to give Patrick Manning a drop of mercy to drink. Contrarily, it had no choice but to sanction him. Punishment is not equivalent to vengeance and the PP could not pardon a man who holds the House and its procedures in such complete contempt — it would have been irresponsible to do otherwise. Once more, on our behalf, the present Government has restrained a cantankerous, recalcitrant ex-Prime Minister seeking to run amok in “his” legislature. Once again it has come to the Parliament’s rescue as it did last year when it put an end to Mr Manning’s overambitious unilateral plans to convert the Red House into his office.
If sanction and revenge may not always be conjoined, we argue that mercy cannot be separated from remorse. Do not repentance and compassion fit hand in glove? Mr Manning has displayed anything but penitence for his misleading claims about the Prime Minister?s house, allegations which were meant to bring her down a peg and into disrepute from the very start of her term. At what point since last year has Mr Manning apologised for being wrong? Was his accusation an honest mistake which he later regretted when the Prime Minister brought to the House bundles of documentary evidence to contradict his bogus assertions? No retraction was nor is forthcoming. Mr Manning could have yet avoided suspension after the Privileges Committee report was submitted by withdrawing his remarks at Monday’s sitting. Instead he flew to Cuba for non-emergency medical attention, which could have been arguably postponed. Is this a man burdened by regret?
Does Mr Manning want the mercy that Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley would have the House tender him? Would a man of his quantum of arrogance accept it? If one were to judge from his disdain of the Privileges Committee and of its chairman, Speaker of the House Wade Mark, we would have to guess that Mr Manning is the least interested in mercy. His obsession has been to get his lawyer into the Committee and challenge and change its rules of evidence and procedure. Mr Manning?s fellow MPs may denounce the Government as dictatorial, but the dictator is Mr Manning. Ironically, they are battling for a man to retain a seat in a parliament whose procedures, authority, privileges, committees and caucuses he refuses to recognise and respect.
We suspect Dr Rowley and the Opposition bench lacked a true defence for their former leader and they grasped at straws on behalf of a drowning man. What else is a call for mercy? We also believe that despite his noble appeals for leniency, Dr Rowley must see the advantages in this suspension — Mr Manning has questioned his leadership from the commencement of the current legislative session. The Opposition may have lost a member but it is a member on whose co-operation it could not depend, who is capable of splitting the PNM vote and who recognises no authority but his own.
There is no other explanation for the calls for mercy and the charges of dictatorship which are astonishingly absurd. All governments have used their majorities to suspend members. The PNM majority House showed Chandresh Sharma no mercy after the Privileges Committee debunked his teacup brawl accusations. The UNC MP was suspended for one month. This hearing was by no stretch of the imagination a kangaroo court. Mr Manning was given ample opportunity to provide a defence — 20 times he failed to appear. When he did, he and his lawyer sought to browbeat the committee.
He showed total disdain for the House and the Privileges committee with his games of repeated requests for adjournments, initiation and withdrawal of judicial proceedings, attendance at a funeral. In fact, the Committee showed the greatest patience in dealing with him. Is there any other member of the House who would have been treated with such forbearance over several months?
The Committee was under no obligation to interrogate the Prime Minister in order to disprove or prove Mr Manning?s allegations. The legal/ethical onus was on Mr Manning to demonstrate his statements were true — he committed the slander. To date, he has presented not an iota of proof, and has not apologised.
The word mercy originally comes from “merces” which to the ancient Romans meant a price paid for something or a wage. Mr Manning’s wage for his contempt of the House, its MPs, its Speaker, its privileges and its rules is his seat. In our view, Mr Manning received the mercy he deserved.