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Trinidad & Tobago: The Laptop Incident

Trinidad and Tobago's Opposition Leader was recently suspended from Parliament for using his laptop without permission, but only a few bloggers seemed tuned in to the story…

Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society posted a comprehensive roundup of mainstream media stories about the event, and as expected, The Extra Secret Blog of Basdeo Panday, which came into being during Trinidad and Tobago's recently-held general elections as a response to this popular blog, was quick on the draw in defending “himself”:

I hope you all see what I go through for you. I had to go through a terrible ordeal in Parliament. The PNM set up the whole thing to make me look bad. They had speaker Barry Sinanan first chastise Gary Hunt for using his laptop. The point was to make it look as though nobody can use a laptop basically, so when I went about my merry way online they wanted to rest it on me like Akon did to Danah Alleyne in Zen when she went for “ice cream” that time.

In posting his weekly roundup, Notes from Port of Spain reported that:

The House of Representatives went into meltdown when the opposition leader was suspended for using a laptop, which the government had kindly provided. As a result, parliamentary debate on food prices, which have risen 19 per cent in the last year, was abandoned.

KnowProSE.com summed up the whole affair by saying:

This, friends, seems more of a ‘I can urinate further than you’ contest and is probably the best example of how Trinidad and Tobago government simply doesn't work. Where the focus should be on actual issues, though, this has suddenly become about Panday's laptop. Technology, while useful, has its place – and while the Speaker does seem a little too much of a Luddite by what is printed in the Trinidad Express, the grandstanding of Panday doesn't make Panday's case much better. What was he doing that was so important on the laptop? Was he working on the crime problem? Digging in on the local elections issue? And was this policy even discussed with the Speaker?

…while the whole thing has left Caribbean Free Radio feeling “terribly confused” – so much so that she has created an online poll to help her make sense of the whole unsettling incident.

10 comments

  • paul kyles

    this is how stupid the speaker of the house is . in a tech driven world , you are preventing the use of a laptop, are the people living in the stone age, created by the PNM, or is it a ploy to turn attention away from the steep prices of food, in trinidad, in a short space opf time only the rich will be able to eat, long live the furher pratic mugabe manning.

  • Bobo Lee

    Please, please, please… get your facts straight. Panday was not suspended for laptop use. He was suspended for being disrespectful to the Speaker of the House.

    If he really wanted to make/suggest a change to the policies of laptop use in the Parliament, couldn’t he have chosen a better forum?

    The Speaker (who is the ultimate authority in the House) sent a circular to all members asking them not to use their laptops in the House without seeking permission from his office first. Note this: it could be used, but with permission.

    Panday had not asked for permission. When the Speaker asked him if he was going to use the laptop, Panday chose to reply rudely.

    I really find it silly that they would waste so much time protesting this issue, when all you had to do was apply for permission first.

    There are people dying because of crime, ppl hungry because of food prices and inflation… the Opposition has a role to play in bringing these issues to the fore, and its leader is playing the fool with words, and being a fool in the House?

    Wake up, people!

    Grow up, Bas!

  • I agree with Bobo. Technology use was not the focus – it just happened to involved technology. And, unfortunately, it involved technology in a way that parallels a kindergarten student not following instructions when being told to put their crayons away.

  • LadyBird

    The issue is neither the laptop nor Panday’s refusal to comply. The issue is whether the speaker can simply issue instructions that are not provided for in the standing orders. As Panday quite rightly argued, what next after laptops? Would it be briefcases that cannot be opened? The speaker’s actions were petty, arrogant and most of all stupid.

  • Oh, come off it. Panday was wrong – it is the rule set that he helped create that he is rebelling against, and which he conveniently calls ‘civil disobedience’ when he wishes – cribbing titles from Thoreau because, quite frankly, the last original move Panday made was when he brought the ULF into Opposition.

    If he is allegedly working to make the country a better place – allegedly – then would he have really picked *this* battle to fight? Of course not. There are plenty of other issues that need to be addressed, as anyone living in Trinidad and Tobago knows – but he decided to get himself suspended because of this.

  • LadyBird

    None of that changes the fact that the Speakers actions were petty in the extreme. He continues to feed the perception that he is in cahoots with the PNM to give the opposition a hard time. But most of all he continues to prove that he is a PNM lackey and stooge.

  • LadyBird

    Taran wrote:

    “If he is allegedly working to make the country a better place – allegedly – then would he have really picked *this* battle to fight? Of course not. There are plenty of other issues that need to be addressed, as anyone living in Trinidad and Tobago knows

    The Speaker’s actions strike the heart of a more fundamental issue: the democratic right of the people of Couva North to proper representataion by their parliamentary representative. The man is the leader of the opposition for Christ’s sake. You don’t suspend him out of pique for the rest of the parliamentary session over such a trivial matter, be it lap top or his tone of voice, and deny his constituents the right to representation.

  • Yes, yes, yes, Ladybird, I’ve heard that parroted before. Ultimately, there were larger issues that one could have worried about rather than a laptop. Defending Panday’s hubris seems pretty naive.

    And if the leader of the Opposition doesn’t know how to pick his battles, it is no wonder that he is in Opposition. I suppose that could be considered evidence which supports your claim. ;-)

  • I suppose you’re right, Ladybird. If the leader of the opposition knew better how to pick his battles, he wouldn’t be in Opposition.

    You win. :-) Next?

  • suhuso

    This entire conversation reeks of the slippery slope argument that by disobeying the mildest law one is contributing to the crime problem equal to that of the most heinous offender – as the current trenda in victim bashing attest, it (crime) is probably every body else’s fault but the criminal’s.
    Panday received a notice (like everybody else in parliament) stating that use of laptops was to be suspended in the house (with provisos);
    Instead of utilising the means set out to protest the request, he makes it (and himself – poor victimised innocent) the focus of the drama. Forget about actually going into parliament to dicuss the business of the land. Or the plight of the people – hungry, under attack or otherwise – poor him and his interrupted conversation via the laptop. Technology is a boon, yes; but the use of it in this society is always debateable – is to flam/or not to flam? What is really wrong with the speaker wishing for the undivided attention of the members while the house is in session? They do little enough thre as it is.

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