Cir­cus Déjà Vu rolls into town!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Rick Wayne

What yes­ter­day morn­ing tran­spired in the House was as pre­dictable as a Philip J. Pierre’s re­sponse to ques­tions about Kenny An­thony’s stew­ard­ship as fi­nance min­is­ter in the time of Rochamel and Gryn­berg: “I don’t know!”

Among those who still care about meet­ings of par­lia­ment, enough to be aware of yes­ter­day’s ses­sion, there couldn’t have been many who did not ex­pect the re­luc­tant leader of the op­po­si­tion to chal­lenge the Speaker, if she ruled that the sched­uled meet­ing could go on with­out a deputy.

Also ex­pected were the ho-hum agree­able echoes from the MP for East Castries. In any event, it was he who opened the morn­ing’s cir­cus, fol­low­ing the Speaker’s invitation to the un­re­spon­sive House to nom­i­nate a re­place­ment for Mar­cus Ni­cholas, an in­de­pen­dent MP since his res­ig­na­tion from the rul­ing party.

Lit­tle of what Pierre of­fered had any­thing to do with the Speaker’s ear­lier rul­ing that it was ev­i­dently not con­ve­nient for the House to elect a new deputy. Ob­vi­ously in cam­paign mode, the East Castries rep­re­sen­ta­tive in­quired about the rea­son the gov­ern­ment side had found it in­con­ve­nient yes­ter­day morn­ing to nom­i­nate a re­place­ment for Mar­cus Ni­cholas, then an­swered his own ques­tion. Along the way, he threw the usual Labour ep­i­thets at his col­leagues on the gov­ern­ment side, in­clud­ing the dark­est mo­tives for their re­fusal to step down to ac­com­mo­date the elec­tion of a new deputy Speaker. Mean­while, he ne­glected to men­tion why it was not con­ve­nient for his own side to of­fer up a can­di­date for the va­cant post.

His ef­forts hav­ing gone nowhere, as far as the Speaker and the rest of the House were con­cerned, Pierre’s leader pa­thet­i­cally at­tempted a res­cue op­er­a­tion. Sound­ing ev­ery bit like a vil­lage preacher, he pompously de­cided that the im­por­tant is­sue cen­tered on what he con­sid­ered the proper in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a line from the Con­sti­tu­tion, at Sec­tion 36: that if the of­fice of Deputy Speaker falls va­cant any time be­fore the dis­so­lu­tion of par­lia­ment, “the House shall as soon as con­ve­nient elect another mem­ber of the House to that of­fice.”

As one ob­served the op­po­si­tion leader’s ham-fisted per­for­mance, the thought that re­peated it­self went some­thing like this: “If he knows so much about the Con­sti­tu­tion, then how to ex­plain the sev­eral un­con­sti­tu­tional laws en­acted in his time? If, as he claims, he un­der­stands the Con­sti­tu­tion bet­ter than any­one else, then how to ex­plain Rochamel and Gryn­berg and the ap­par­ent usurpa­tion of the gov­er­nor gen­eral’s au­thor­ity?”

The Speaker re­mained unim­pressed. Not even the nor­mally bois­ter­ous MPs on the other side saw the need to chal­lenge the leader of the op­po­si­tion’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of “as soon as con­ve­nient.” After all, the Con­sti­tu­tion also speaks un­am­bigu­ously of ac­tions to be taken im­me­di­ately, as soon as pos­si­ble, and as soon as prac­ti­ca­ble. What is so dif­fi­cult about those words? I dare­say their mean­ing is clear. As clear as “as soon as is con­ve­nient.” Con­ve­nient to whom? The whole par­lia­ment, by the Speaker’s quite un­der­stand­able rea­son­ing, if not by the op­po­si­tion’s ar­cane dic­tio­nary.

In the end the Speaker over-gen­er­ously per­mit­ted outof-or­der repet­i­tive protes­ta­tions that re­called the hey­day of Speaker St Clair Daniel. In his day Kenny and Company would’ve been shown the door for con­temp­tu­ous House mis­be­hav­ior after a rul­ing from the chair. The cur­rent Speaker ac­tu­ally al­lowed the SLP MPs to stand while she was speak­ing. That never would’ve hap­pened in Daniel’s time in the lion’s den. But then, per­haps this Speaker knew she would not have to tol­er­ate for long the demon­strated un­par­lia­men­tary shenani­gans. After the wannabe George Od­lums had stood ig­nored for sev­eral min­utes, they strode out as ex­pected, on the heels of their leader-for-life. Ah, but Pierre was not yet quite fin­ished. Pos­si­bly con­cerned about his mousey im­age, and de­spite the Speaker’s protests, he squeaked rep­e­ti­tiously for sev­eral un­com­fort­able min­utes be­fore fiz­zling out.

He picked up his Od­lum­style purse and, like Elvis, left the build­ing.

The pre­ced­ing first ap­peared in the STAR on

14 Septem­ber 2011

Op­po­si­tion MP Philip J. Pierre takes his case to the me­dia out­side the House of

Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day morn­ing.

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