MEDIA RELEASE - APRIL 10, 2015
The Council for Responsible Political Behaviour met on Wednesday April 8,2015. This being the first meeting following its formal launch, the Council first ratified the Method for Managing Complaints and Reporting Thereof, which is appended. With the governance rules in place, the Council deliberated on complaints/issues of possible breaches of the Code. Having been tasked with monitoring and evaluating adherence to the Code of Ethical Political Conduct, the Council will consider all written complaints from the public as well as issues raised by Council members in relation to possible breaches. Deliberations of the Council would be done in camera and, where necessary, a statement would be issued, but only after the deliberation of the Council.
STATEMENT ON THE COUNCIL'S DELIBERATIONS
Amongst the various complaints/issues raised and deliberated upon, the Council hereby issues the following statement as relates to three specific issues.
1. Allegation the State-owned media was being used by the United National Congress (UNC) on Monday nights for political broadcasts, contrary to Section 2(13) of the Code.
The Council observed that on March 13, 2015, during Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Representatives, the Honourable Prime Minister stated that the UNC's political broadcasts on CNMG were being paid for.
2. Statements by Honourable Dr Keith Rowley at a People's National Movement (PNM) political meeting at the Brazil High School on March 17, 2015.
The Council opined that Dr Rowley should be reminded of his party's commitment under Section 1(2) of the Code to: "Maintain the highest moral principles and ethical standards with respect to their conduct during the campaign, the elections and the post-election period."
3. Statements by Honourable Vernella Alleyne-Toppin during her contribution to the debate on the Motion of No Confidence in the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives on March 25, 2015.
The Council observed that sections of the MP's statement breached Sections 2(3) and 2(5) of the Code. Section 2(3) of the Code prohibits the making of "false or defamatory allegations in print or speech in connection with respect of a Party, its Candidates, representatives or members." Section 2(5) of the Code prohibits statements which seek to "assassinate the character of or make defamatory comments about any individual, family, professional group or section of the community. "
In its deliberations the Council observed that Mrs Alleyne-Toppin's statement was made in the Parliament under the cover of "Parliamentary privilege." The Council wishes to underscore the fact that ethical political conduct is not limited by place, time or space. Parliament cannot be used as a sanctuary to breach the Code. The Council also considered the fact that Mrs Alleyne- Toppin's party, the Tobago Organization of the People (TOP) was not a signatory to the Code. Here the Council adopted the position that it would not be restrained in only evaluating the conduct of signatories, but will evaluate all political actors. Furthermore the Council noted that Mrs Alleyne-Toppin is a Minister of Government. In addition, she serves in a government under a Prime Minister whose party has endorsed the Code of Ethical Political Conduct. The Prime Minister is called upon to ensure that all Members of her Government abide with Section 1(2) of the Code: "Maintain the highest moral principles and ethical standards with respect to their conduct..."
The Council takes this opportunity to remind all politically active individuals and Parties of their commitment to abide by the Code which can be viewed on the Council's website: http://www.politicalethicstt.org.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Council,
Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath,