During debate on the Libel and Defamation Act, Rowley said TT has a very vibrant media which is capable of defending itself and expressing its points of view.
Rowley asked if anyone could now take Gopeesingh seriously after the latter’s portrayal of a perfect, loveable warm and fuzzy relationship between the UNC and media, and alternatively the PNM being detrimental to the constitutional freedoms of association and movement.
Rowley recalled that under the former Basdeo Panday government, Bajan journalist Julian Rogers had been chased from his job hosting a morning programme at TV6 and then driven out of the country. Rowley said the former UNC regime had likewise driven journalist Jones P Madeira from his job as Editor in Chief at the Trinidad Guardian. After a story headlined, “Chutney Rising”, the UNC had said it would not tolerate the likes of Madeira.
Rowley then launched an amusing “attack” on Gopeesingh whom he had known for many years since their days together at the Mona campus in Jamaica of the University of the West Indies (UWI). Rowley vouched that he and Gopeesingh had shared many meals and played cricket together. “I had many a good time at his house,” related Rowley. “Yet something went wrong,” he said to the bemusement of MPs. “I never knew he had loose screws,” again hitting Gopeesingh’s speech. Testifying to his closeness to Gopeesingh, Rowley recalled once advocating for Gopeesingh to become PNM MP for Fyzabad, but to no avail with the then PNM leadership. At that Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal quipped, “36(5)!” - the standing order or rule that bans the imputing of improper motives - as if saying it is improper to link Gopeesingh to the PNM. Many laughed.
Rowley continued, “It is the UNC that caused the media to be afraid.” He said in 2011 and 2012 the present UNC-led Government had ordered State enterprises to withhold governmental advertising from the TNT Mirror, in contrast to claims that the UNC has lovingly caressed the media. Rowley complained of being personally attacked by the past UNC and present UNC-led governments.
He said on May 24, 2001, in his speech to the House about massive corruption at the Piarco Airport expansion project, he had alleged that the then attorney-general Ramesh Maharaj had pole-vaulted on his principles by staying in a Cabinet that oversaw a null and void contract. “For that, the UNC Government expelled me from Parliament, under Toco/Sangre Grande (MP Dr Rupert Griffith, who was then Speaker).” He said the then UNC benches had voted unanimously to throw him out of the House, leaving his constituents without representation. “Every one of them voted to throw me out,” he said accusingly. Rowley also lamented that as a result of his speech on the “email affair” the Government had sent him to the Privileges Committee, but were now claiming to be a “wonderful bunch of people”.