Trinidad – House speaker apologizes
PORT OF SPAIN –– The judiciary denied it, and House Speaker Wade Mark apologized. And in contradiction to his (the speaker’s) statement to the House that notification had come from the judiciary, Mark yesterday admitted that it was Minister of Finance Larry Howai, the subject of the motion of censure, who had notified him by letter last Thursday of his (Howai’s) lawsuit against Jack Warner’s Sunshine newspaper.
The controversy arising out of the bizarre collapse at Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives of the motion of censure filed by Warner against Howai continued to play out yesterday. The judiciary, which found itself under question, issued a release, claiming total non-involvement in the issue.
Mark, speaking before the commencement of the debate on the motion of censure last Friday, had told the Parliament: “I received only a few hours ago a notice from the High Court of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago dated January 16, 2015, a matter involving Larry Howai and Azad Ali of the Sunshine Publishing Company Limited.”
But yesterday the judiciary at 9:33 a.m issued a release stating: “While there appears to be some misunderstanding which we expect the Honourable Speaker of the House to clarify, the judiciary can confirm that no notice, letter or any other communication on the matter was forwarded by the court or any of its officers to the Speaker or any officers of the Parliament.”
By midday (12:02 p.m.) the speaker issued his own a statement that he had made an “inadvertent” error when he “conveyed the impression that the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago had sent him a notice dated January 16, 2015.
“The Speaker of the House deeply regrets any embarrassment which may have been caused to the judiciary, particularly having regard to the comity and mutual respect which exists between the Parliament and the judiciary and will write to the Honourable Chief Justice conveying his regrets,” the statement read.
The speaker added he proposed to correct the record at the next sitting of the House of Representatives –– on Friday.
However, in admitting that it was not the High Court which had informed him, Mark said it was Howai himself.
“The Speaker of the House was by letter dated January 22, 2015, notified by the claimant (Howai) of certain legal proceedings commenced by the claimant in the High Court on January 16, 2015, which brought into urgent consideration a novel application of the sub judice rule in the debate on the motion before the House. It was in these unprecedented circumstances that the statement (that he was notified by the High Court of the lawsuit) was made inadvertently.”
The motion of censure dealt with Howai’s handling of a $470 million loan to Carlton Savannah Limited. The motion was filed on December 30, 2014, and approved by the speaker for debate on January 5, 2015.
On January 16, 2015, Howai filed a claim in the High Court in which he sought damages for libel against the Sunshine newspaper which had published an article in its December 26, 2014 issue on the matter of the $470 million loan.
Last Friday, Mark had pointed out at the start of the debate that he feared Warner’s contribution was likely to run afoul of the sub judice rule. Warner, in making his contribution, then raised the issue of a report on insider trading in which Howai was featured but Mark ruled that he could not raise this issue because it was not part of the preamble of his motion of censure.