Opposition critical of Speaker Michael Perkins continued “stifling of democracy and debate in the National Assembly”

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS – Chairman of the opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Hon Marcella Liburd continues to express concern of attempts by newly-elected Speaker Hon. Michael Perkins to silence Opposition Parliamentarians in the lawmaking body on matters of national importance.

Speaking on the adjournment during the last Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly, Liburd, the Parliamentary Representative for St. Christopher 2 (Central Basseterre), raised the issue of the J. N. France Hospital Stem Cell Scandal which continues to rock the twin-island Federation.

She said she hoped that lawmakers will soon see legislation brought to the National Assembly to correct the stem cell scandal at the main hospital.

Speaker Perkins, prodded by Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris and Leader of Government Business, Hon. Eugene Hamilton, shut down the issue by informing Liburd that she “cannot raise controversial issues on the adjournment. And so I would ask you to confine your statements to….you know.”

But Liburd, the lone elected female, pointed out to Speaker Perkins that he had allowed lawmakers on the government benches to speak on several controversial issues without hindrance.

“I certainly understand what you are saying Mr. Speaker, but I took my cue from the Member who spoke before me, who raised all sort of controversial matters and nobody at all, and this is the point that we have been making all morning, nobody at all tried to stop him from speaking about controversial matters. He spoke uninterrupted by everyone including your good self about controversial matters. So the controversial matters rule Mr Speaker is only applied to one side (Opposition). That is exactly what we are speaking about,” said Liburd, herself, a former senator, Deputy Speaker and Speaker.

“The member before you who spoke about proceedings of this House, which are not in my view and opinion, controversial. The Member before you, on your side was challenging things that the Speaker did in the past, which were totally out of order. He was disagreeing with rulings of the Speaker on previous sittings. Those things are out of order,” Perkins told Liburd.

Liburd told Perkins: “Mr. Speaker, it either we (members on both sides) can speak about controversial matters or we can’t. It cannot be that we can speak of controversial matters in some cases, but in others you can’t. We have to get the rule right. I will continue to complain about the imbalance and the way in which we (on the Opposition) have been treated and continue to be treated (by you) in this House.”

Liburd has repeatedly accused Perkins as he Perkins puts it “my eye catching (Government lawmakers) first,” when he was Deputy Speaker and presided over several sittings of the lawmaking body in the absence of Speaker Franklin Brand, “of  outright stifling of democracy and debate.”

West Basseterre Opposition MP, Hon. Konris Maynard has said that the behaviour of then Deputy Speaker Perkins “cannot be described as anything other than that of a dictatorial nature.”

Last year the lone Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) parliamentarian in the St Kitts and Nevis National Assembly, Hon Patrice Nisbett, described Perkins, then deputy speaker as “constitutionally illiterate.”

“He has arrogated a lot of authority unto himself and he seems not to appreciate that the opposition members have a right to be in the National Assembly and we have a right to speak in the National Assembly,” said Nisbett.

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