Kenny walks out the House . . . again!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

The an­tic­i­pa­tion in the House of Assem­bly on Tues­day morn­ing was seething. The me­dia had al­ready got wind of the op­po­si­tion’s in­tent to walk out of the House if the gov­ern­ment did not nom­i­nate a Deputy Speaker from its ranks. It would not be the first time the op­po­si­tion had walked out in a fit but in this elec­tion charged at­mos­phere this kind of move meant head­lines for re­porters look­ing for a po­lit­i­cal an­gle to sto­ries.

The is­sue of the day was that all the gov­ern­ment par­lia­men­tar­i­ans were mem­bers of Cab­i­net and were there­fore not el­i­gi­ble for nom­i­na­tion.

The for­mer Deputy Speaker, Mar­cus Ni­cholas, who is also the Den­nery North MP, re­signed his post in the House of Assem­bly on Au­gust 29. He now sits as an in­de­pen­dent MP along­side Mi­coud North MP Jean­nine Comp­ton-An­toine.

Ni­cholas walked into the House on Tues­day to be met with cheers from the op­po­si­tion MPs and looks of amuse­ment from his for­mer party col­leagues.

The first is­sue of business on the Or­der Pa­per for the day was the elec­tion of a Deputy Speaker. Speaker Dr Rose­mary Hus­bands-Mathurin in­vited nom­i­na­tions for the post and was met with si­lence through­out the en­tire Cham­ber.

She said, “Mem­bers, I take no­tice that the House has given suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence that it is not con­ve­nient to elect a Deputy Speaker at this time.”

Castries East MP Philip J. Pierre in­ter­jected to re­quest the Speaker ex­plain the rea­sons for post­pon­ing the elec­tion of a deputy speaker to the next sit­ting of par­lia­ment.

The Speaker said, “The House has put for­ward no nom­i­na­tions for Deputy Speaker. How am I sup­posed to pro­ceed? The gov­ern­ment has not put for­ward a nom­i­na­tion. The in­de­pen­dents have not put for­ward a nom­i­na­tion. The op­po­si­tion has not put for­ward a nom­i­na­tion. The House is not pre­pared to elect a Deputy Speaker at this time.”

Pierre as­serted the Speaker’s decision was “out of or­der.” In spite of the ac­cu­sa­tion, the Speaker held her ground say­ing “I un­der­stand the po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties be­fore me but I must be al­lowed to make a decision on what the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion is. Ev­ery mem­ber of this House has given ev­i­dence that this is not a con­ve­nient time to do it . . . I now give no­tice to the House that the elec­tion of the Deputy Speaker will be on the or­der pa­per of the next sit­ting and the House will find it con­ve­nient to re­solve the mat­ter.”

Pierre ac­cused the House of en­gag­ing in il­le­gal­i­ties and said, “It is almost pros­ti­tu­tion this hon­ourable House.”

De­spite the ac­cu­sa­tions, the Speaker stated that the business of the peo­ple will con­tinue.

Op­po­si­tion leader Dr. Kenny An­thony stood to an­nounce that the Speaker’s rul­ing was an “is­sue of law­ful­ness.” He dis­puted that Sec­tion 35 of the Con­sti­tu­tion does not deal with the op­er­a­tional pro­ce­dure cur­rently fac­ing the House. Sec­tion 35(3) states: “No business shall be trans­acted in the House (other than the elec­tion of a Speaker) at any time when the of­fice of Speaker is va­cant.”

It goes fur­ther to say in sub­sec­tion (6): “At any time when, by virtue of sec­tion 34(3) of this Con­sti­tu­tion, the Speaker is un­able to per­form the func­tions of his of­fice, those func­tions shall, un­til he va­cates his seat in the House or re­sumes the per­for­mance of the func­tion of his of­fice, be per­formed by the Deputy Speaker or, if the of­fice of Deputy Speaker is va­cant or the Deputy Speaker is re­quired to cease to per­form his func­tion as a mem­ber of the House by virtue of that sub­sec­tion, by such mem­ber of the House (not be­ing a mem­ber of the Cab­i­net or a Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary) as the House may elect for the pur­pose.”

An­thony fur­ther pro­posed the House deal with Sec­tion 36 of the Con­sti­tu­tion which says: “(1) When the House first meets after any gen­eral elec­tion of mem­bers and be­fore it pro­ceeds to the des­patch of any other business ex­cept the elec­tion of the Speaker, the House shall elect a mem­ber of the House, who is not a mem­ber of the Cab­i­net or a Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary, to be Deputy Speaker of the House and if the of­fice of Deputy Speaker falls va­cant at any time be­fore the next dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment, the House shall, as soon as con­ve­nient, elect another mem­ber of the House to that of­fice.”

The op­po­si­tion leader ac­cused the Speaker of us­ing her po­si­tion to fur­ther the agenda of the rul­ing party, a claim the Speaker firmly re­futed.

In the up­roar that fol­lowed, the op­po­si­tion mem­bers re­fused to stay seated and stood in their po­si­tions, mak­ing it clear they had no in­ten­tion of tak­ing part in the peo­ple’s business of the day. In light of this, the Speaker took no is­sue with their protest and con­tin­ued the business of the House as usual. Hav­ing been ig­nored, the op­po­si­tion staged a walk out with its leader shout­ing in protest while Prime Min­is­ter Stephen­son King was on his feet lay­ing pa­pers in his name.

The Speaker stopped the prime min­is­ter to “al­low the disorder to leave the Cham­ber.” Philip J. Pierre was the lone op­po­si­tion MP left. He gave a short speech about not leav­ing the House “in disorder” be­fore he joined his col­leagues on the out­side.

As the op­po­si­tion mem­bers left the premises, a crowd formed out­side on the perime­ter of Par­lia­ment. Some peo­ple cheered in support of the op­po­si­tion while oth­ers ex­pressed their dis­gust be­cause “we elected y’all to serve for us. Look the prime min­is­ter go­ing and bor­row how much money and y’all have noth­ing to say about that. Y’all not feel­ing it! Is us that feel­ing it in our pocket!” Some­one else shouted, “They right! Too much non­sense go­ing on in par­lia­ment!” while another said “Y’all fel­las self­ish! Who are you say­ing you rep­re­sent when you do fool­ish­ness like this? It’s not for us. It’s all about the votes.” A woman stood qui­etly at the cor­ner of Con­sti­tu­tion Park and Wil­liam Peter Boule­vard and told this re­porter, “It doesn’t mat­ter whether they call elec­tions now. They all say they are for the peo­ple but they don’t know we are choos­ing be­tween the lesser of two evils be­cause the more things change, the more they re­main the same.”

The pre­ced­ing first ap­peared in the STAR on

14 Septem­ber 2011

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