Panday on bail – as turmoil erupts in Parliament

Port of Spain, Trinidad, April 28, 2006 –  The High Court has released former Trinidad Prime Minister Basdeo Panday on bail this afternoon. At the same time, on an unrelated matter chaos broke out in Parliament among members of his United Congress Party which saw party leader Winston Dookeran sitting with the Independent Parliamentarians.

In his ruling today, Justice Anthony Carmona, released Mr Panday on TT$300,000 (TT$6 = US$1) bail on humanitarians grounds. This came after testimony from Dr Vinod Mahabir and cardiologist Dr Rasheed Rahaman.

Dr Rasheed Rahaman gave evidence of Mr Panday’s condition which the Press was asked not to report in the interest of the medical privacy accorded to any citizen. Given the two major chronic diseases from which he suffers and the fact that the prison infirmary did not have the equipment to deal with the ailments, the Judge ordered his release.

Justice Camona said that to keep Mr Panday in jail until his appeal could be heard could amount to an unintended death sentence.

Mr Panday’s attorney, Desmond Allum SC, said that having regard to Panday’s age, political career and service to the country, his health and his clean criminal record, the magistrate should have been more lenient. He suggested that a three-month prison terms would be have been more palatable. Co-counsel Fyard Hosein SC said that the appeal covers six grounds. He argued that the Chief Magistrate could have upheld the defence argument that the case against Mr Panday was an abuse of process since there were more than 200 people in public life that had no filed declaration of their income and assets as required by the Integrity Commission.
Attorney representing the State, Douglas Mendes SC, said that the Integrity Commission was in the process of determining exactly which people in public life were required to file declarations, and in the meanwhile the Commission decided to take no further action.

He said the Chief Magistrate corrected applied the law and the sentence was not excessive.


During the first sitting of Parliament today since Kamala Persad-Bissessar was appointed Leader of the Opposition, chaos broke out in the House of Representatives when the members walked out accusing their Chief Whip Ganga Singh of colluding with the Speaker to terminate debate on a motion before the House before two more Opposition members could speak on it.

At a hastily called news conference, opposition leader Kamala Persad Bissessar said Mr Singh knew that she and Dr Roodal Moonilal wanted to speak on the motion. Couva South M.P. Kelvin Ramnath called for the immediate removal of Mr Singh, saying he has betrayed his colleagues however Mr Singh pre-empted any motion against him by resigning “with immediate effect” as opposition Chief Whip.
In a statement to the House this afternoon, Mr Singh described the attempts to remove him from office as flagrantly unjust, and without basis and said there has been a consistent effort to undermine him. (