Temporary United National United (UNC) Senator Gerald Ramdeen says he has accepted the finding of the Privileges Committee which has ruled that Ramdeen’s statements on temporary Independent Senator Justin Junkere, were a breach of the privileges of the Senate.
The report on the Committee of Privileges was laid in the Senate on Tuesday and it recommended that Ramdeen should apologise.
Asked on Wednesday to comment, Ramdeen responded:
“The Committee of Privileges has delivered its report to the House in this matter yesterday. At each and every stage in this process, I have attempted to cooperate with the committee and assist the committee in its deliberations. The committee has ruled that my statements amounted to a breach of the privileges of the House and I respect that finding. One should also note that there was a minority opinion delivered by the leader of government business in the House, Senator Mark and the finds of his report should also be noted.
“Now that the report has been laid before the House the recommendations of the committee do not take effect until the report is adopted by the House, and so I must await the outcome of the next stage in the process. Until that is complete and the House makes a decision on whether it will adopt the report it would be premature to make any statement regarding the proposed sanctions.”
According to the report of the Committee, Ramdeen should apologise to the House for statements made about temporary Independent senator Justin Junkere, in the wake of the passage of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) (Amendment) Bill in May of this year.
If he doesn’t apologise, he should be reprimanded.
The Committee investigated whether a contempt was committed by then temporary Opposition senator Ramdeen when he held a news conference, at which he raised conflict-of-interest allegations against Junkere, citing he had received work from the Office of the Attorney General and questioned his decision to vote in favour of the SSA Bill.
Junkere had in fact been given one brief by then Attorney General Garvin Nicholas, during the People’s Partnership administration.
The committee listened to the DVD and transcript of a news conference held by Ramdeen on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
The report said the majority of the committee’s members felt the words uttered and statements made by Ramdeen would convey to persons hearing them the impression that:
a) the former temporary Independent senator was not independent in his decision-making
b) the vote cast by Mr Junkere was compromised and
c) aspersions were, by the words used, being cast on the propriety of the vote of Mr Junkere”.
“Ultimately, members by a majority felt the words uttered and statements made by Mr Ramdeen were…an indignity to the House and were, therefore, a breach of privilege,” the report stated.
The report, therefore, recommended, “Mr Ramdeen should be directed to offer an unequivocal apology to the House, which will be read into the record”.
The report stated further: “In the event that Mr Ramdeen fails to apologise to the House, that a reprimand is given by the Presiding Officer”.
It also advised that members of the Senate be encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Standing Order and conventions of Parliament.
All members of the committee, with the exception of Opposition Senator Wade Mark, signed the report.
Other members were Independent Senator Paul Richards and Government members Nigel De Freitas, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and Committee chairman (Senate President) Christine Kangaloo.
The report noted the sanctions which the committee could apply were limited as Ramdeen only serves as a temporary senator.