BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS – It is clear from Thursday’s sitting of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly that the newly-elected Speaker, Hon. Michael Perkins, who resigned Wednesday as a senator and Deputy Speaker, will continue to stifle democracy, decency, good governance when it comes to the opposition members in the lawmaking body.
Opposition parliamentarians representing the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) are on record of protesting the behaviour and rulings of Perkins, who sat on the government side as the Deputy Speaker and who presided on several occasions in the absence of former speaker and businessman Franklin Brand, who resigned on April 28, 2016, eleven months after his election to the high office on May 14th, 2015.
Following the election of Perkins as the new Speaker, the government amended the Order Paper removing matters of business and moving a motion for the adjournment.
West Basseterre Labour Party Representative Hon Konris Maynard speaking on the adjournment informed the new Speaker and the lawmaking body that today (Thursday) was the first time the opposition parliamentarians were officially informed of the former Speaker Brand’s resignation.
He told lawmakers that the reading of Mr. Brand’s letter of resignation by the Clerk “was the first time that official notice had been given to members of the opposition of such a significant event in our National Parliament.”
“I place on the record my disappointment that as a Member of Parliament, I am hearing officially for the first time from this Parliament of the resignation of Speaker Brand,” said MP Maynard, who conveyed best wishes to Mr Brand and expressed thanks for his stewardship.
Mr Maynard told the new Speaker he had concerns over his deliberations of the lawmaking body when he presided as Deputy Speaker in the absence of Mr. Brand.
But he was interrupted by the Leader of Government Business Hon. Eugene Hamilton, who stated that Maynard cannot speak on the matter, to which the Speaker indicated that “controversial and contentious matters cannot be mentioned on the adjournment.”
Fighting for the correct words Speaker Perkins said opposition members cannot speak on matters “which can lead to rebuttals and I would ask you to refrain from referring to the things that transpired at previous sittings, which you are clearly doing. That is out of order.”
But Maynard requested Speaker Perkins to point to him to the rules “that suggest that I cannot in general terms, speak of the conduct of this Parliament and if I cannot speak on the adjournment in this House that I am elected to, I don’t know where else I can do it. There is no practise that on the adjournment controversial issues or statements cannot be mentioned.”
“I don’t know why you would consider this to be controversial. I am giving my opinion that as the Deputy Speaker, I felt as a member of this Parliament that the decisions made were not balanced, said MP Maynard.
But the Leader of Government Business Hamilton in a second attempt to prevent the first term MP from continuing to ask the new Speaker that opposition MP’s be treated with justice and fairness, rose to his feet, suggesting that “complaints or anything that they do not like about this Parliament can be reached through your office. They have access to your office. This should not be on the parliament floor.”
Speaker Perkins in response agreed that “references to decisions made by the Speaker in previous sittings are out of order. If in previous sittings the Speaker made a decision to which you disagreed there is a mechanism for which you can bring that to this honourable parliament. So I would not accept any references to the decisions of the previous Speaker from a previous parliament.”
The youthful legislator also pointed out that it is parliamentary protocol for the Members of the Opposition to be consulted or informed of the name of the person who would be nominated by the government side to become the Speaker.
“I wish to state for the record that a government who wishes or claim to be one of all the people, refuses to engage the Opposition in matters of the National Assembly. There is always the constant saying by the Harris Government that we are ‘the rejected ones,’ but that is not true, all of us on the opposite side of this house were elected by the people and were given a voice by the people and is said to be a part of the affairs of the National Assembly,” said Maynard.
He told the new Speaker that although he does not support his election to the post he is still hopeful “that as a good representative you can prove me wrong.”