The Red House, seat of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain, Trinidad (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
Every single Member of Parliament, whether they sit on the Government benches or in Opposition, is essentially the spokesperson for the constituents of the district which elected them. As such, they have a responsibility, or rather an obligation, to express the views of their Constituents during Parliamentary debates on bills and motions as it relates to them. Obviously, it would be unrealistic for every single member to speak during each debate, but one would expect that through consultation these MP’s would determine the issues that are most impactful, and speak to them on their constituents’ behalf. Understanding this therefore, it is difficult to expect an entire calendar year could go by without a single contribution of any Member of Parliament, and yet such is the case with the Member for Laventille East. In fact, today marks One Year, Five Months and Seven Days since Mr. Leonce uttered his last syllable in the House, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why.
According to the website of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, to date Adrian Leonce has been offered only four occasions to contribute anything more than a vote during a Sitting of the House. Three instances were to respond to the Budget debates in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and once in 2016 he was allowed move a Motion to adopt the First Report of the Joint Select Committee on Government Assurances. While Mr. Leonce was never appointed to any Government office outside of Parliament, he does currently sit in four Committees, namely the Committee on State Enterprises, the Public Accounts Committee, the Standing Finance Committee, and the Committee on Government Assurances. As he has never once been allowed to contribute to a Parliamentary debate concerning any motions brought forward from these Committees, it is not unreasonable to believe his membership is a token one which allows his colleagues the opportunity to do what they might consider to be more important work.
The level of contempt that the Member for Laventille East has been treated with by his colleagues is fascinating to witness, especially as the Prime Minister has struggled to find persons from within his party to fill Cabinet and other government positions. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to see other MP’s being fired and rehired multiple times in Ministerial portfolios, with Mr. Leonce never once being offered the position of even a Parliamentary secretary in a Ministry. While Members such as Marlene McDonald, Nicole Olivierre and Darryl Smith have only contributed a handful more times in Parliament than Mr. Leonce, their punishment was deliberate due to their own misbehavior. As Mr. Leonce was deprived in 2018 of the one speaking opportunity he was previously afforded per annum, I am therefore left to wonder if he is being secretly punished as well.
It is widely considered that a ‘crapaud’ could contest the Laventille East seat on a PNM ticket and be elected, but to witness the Member of Parliament actually be treated as one is actually quite disconcerting. The residents of that constituency deserve to have a voice in Parliament, the same as any other citizen, and that fact that it is being suppressed is cause for concern. Such an instance might have warranted a recall vote if or laws allowed for such, but as it stands, the people in that constituency now have to wait another year before they are given the opportunity to elect a better representative. It will be interesting to see how much longer Mr. Leonce’s silence continues in the House, however, as I may be the only person who noticed the absence of his voice, I doubt anyone will pay attention going forward.
Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent the views of Caribbean American Weekly.