Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 19th 2015 Contents A24
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt July 19, 2015
Q: Mr Lalla, I am not a pessimist,
but do you really think this greatly
anticipated debate would ever take
place at all?
A: (In his high back swivel chair in his
chambers on Havelock Street, Wood-
brook, Friday morning) Which one?
The first being the challenge which was given
to the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith
Rowley, by the Prime Minister, Mrs Kamla
Persad-Bissessar, in reference to the July 30
date given by the Debates Commission on July
3 but the following week, the commission
unilaterally vacated this date...
OK, I am not going to regurgitate the his-
tory of what has so far transpired, but doesn t
it appear to the man in the street that there
is some kind of activity going on behind the
scenes by the commission?
Activities like what? You see, this issue arose
because the commission gave us July 30 which
was fixed by them and unilaterally...
Is it a fact that they gave the PNM a dif-
ferent date for the same event?
I don t know, that is a matter for the PNM,
I cannot say. The point is they originally came
to us and told us they have decided to have
the debate on July 30. Our position has always
been that we are quite happy to debate Dr
Rowley on that date.
Before going further, Mr Lalla, a birdie
whispered to me that...
(Interjecting) We have quite some birdies
around (laughter), but let s hear what that
particular birdie whispered in your ear.
Right. That there is a political split on the
Debates Commission...and that is what s
responsible for this current three-way
imbroglio between the UNC, the PNM, and
First of all, Clevon, they refer to themselves
as the Debates Commission which is not cor-
rect, because a commission is not something
that anybody can unilaterally clothe themselves
with that nomenclature. It has to be an official
action on the part of the authorities and a
commission is given legal authority over some-
This group has no legal authority over any-
thing concerning the date of a general election.
They are really the Debates Committee of the
Chamber of Commerce. And how they could
fix a date and then unilaterally change it is
something they have to explain.
This political divide, I am told, is that the
PP has the majority support, followed by the
PNM, and then Jack Warner s ILP has man-
aged to get a little bit (support) of the action?
(Chuckling while adjusting his frame in the
chair) Clevon, I cannot say anything about
that, it would be out of place for me. I have
been hearing rumours, so you would have to...
From your vantage point, have you been
able to detect anything of the kind on that
I have seen some strange activities taking
place, right? Two of the most important things
that would lead me to think that there are
machinations taking place behind the scenes;
one, the unilateral changing of the date and
two, on the last occasion...
Machinations, that is a strong word isn t
it, Mr Lalla?
Well, this is T&T, ent? On the last date
when I met with them, I went with all good
intentions for them to consider hosting the
debate on July 30 in accordance with their
original undertaking, but lo and behold...
Hold on! Was there any agreement
between the PP and the commission for a
second debate or was it only for July 30?
(A vigorous nodding of his head) Absolutely
not. We never agreed to that. That came from
the commission, and that is what I am speaking
about. When I attended the last meeting, as
soon as l walked out the Chamber of Com-
merce building, a release was sent to the media
stating that the debate is on August 20 and
We never agreed to that but yet, you have
the chamber issuing this release. So that is
why one has to wonder when you look at the
vacating of July 30, plus the manner in which
the release was done. One has to wonder
what was really happening with this so-called
Did you, Mr Lalla, raise any objection to
this unilateral change?
Well, they have known all along that I have
been objecting to it and on that same day, I
spoke about it to the media on these unilateral
If the committee should go ahead with the
August dates and blank the July 30...
What makes you feel the debate would not
come off? The Prime Minister is very serious
in holding Rowley to a one-on-one debate.
She has made that abundantly clear over and
If you are sticking to July 30, doesn t that
mean you would not be participating on any
other date or dates?
That is their business. The point is the
CNMG has come forward and they have invited
other television stations to get involved and
they re using moderators, the hosts of their
morning talk programmes.
I might be kind of naive, but I cannot see
how this debate can be accomplished given
the present scenario and the stances being
adopted by you and the chamber?
They have no monopoly on the staging of
Oh, so you are giving me a hint that some
other organisation can stage the debate
between Mrs Persad-Bissessar and Mr Row-
Because, I believe in the national interest
that the media houses will come together to
host the debate in place of the commission,
and that Dr Rowley will also see it in the
national interest to take up the challenge of
the Prime Minister and participate in the
So that if Rowley says "I don t know any-
thing about that and I am going along with
the dates suggested by the chamber, and I
am not too sure about the transparency of
what is now being proposed..."
Well, a number of things---if he makes that
kind of allegation against the three media
houses, that will be a very serious accusation,
because he will be saying he doesn t think
they can be relied upon to be fair and impartial.
I don t think he would want to do that. I don t
think that he would try to hold on to the coat
tails and seek to hide behind the Chamber of
Commerce and their fumbling of the debate.
Mr Lalla, election debates is a relatively
new thing to Trinbagonians, what exactly is
your role as the Prime Minister s negotiator
in this instance?
Well, you can say that I am doing all the
leg work for Mrs Persad-Bissessar in the build-
up to the staging of the event. Apart from
that, there are certain aspects of their rules
that we were concerned with for example, the
selection of the moderator. They would like
to select that person in their sole discretion
and I was uncomfortable in allowing them
their sole discretion.
Finally, Mr Lalla, when are you going to
walk in your constituency....the same birdie
whispered that you were interested in con-
testing the September 7 general election?
(A hearty laugh) I have no comment to make
on that except, no comment...
Why is that a standard response from
politicians and the next thing you hear is
that you are appearing before the screening
All I would say is that I am always willing
to serve my country wherever and whenever
I am required. And don t forget, the only time
Mrs Persad-Bissessar would be debating is on
From page A10
PM serious about one-on-one
debate with Rowley---Lalla
Guardian columnist Clevon Raphael speaks to attorney
Larry Lalla at his law chambers on Havelock Street in
Woodbrook, on Friday. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
The Prime Minister
is very serious in
holding Rowley to a
She has made that
over and over.
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