MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Written by: The Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Sir. Gerald A. Watt, KCN, KC
I feel the need to write this article in order to address and dispel the heretical, and nonsensical, propositions espoused by the Leader of the Opposition (LO), the Members of the Opposition Branch, UPP, BPM and independent alike, and fulsomely supported by the self-praising former Speaker, in a guest opinion published in the Daily Observer, on Saturday 18th March, 2023, entitled “Where absolute Power, Corrupts Absolutely”.
The issues to which I refer are:
- The assertion that the Honourable Member of St. Phillips North and Deputy Speaker was not properly seated as a Member of the House in that “He had not subscribed to the Oath of Allegiance as required by Standing Order 6(1) and Section 48(1) of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda” and;
- The correct interpretation of the applicability of Standing Order 96 (1) which deals with “Suspension of Standing Orders”.I have particularly taken note of the aforesaid “Guest Opinion” which is dishonest, misleading, and a ploy calculated to nullify the entire Budget Debate on the farcical proposition that the said Member, had subscribed not to the Oath of a Member but to that of Deputy Speaker. The balance of the guest opinion was devoted to the usual accusations of bias and unfairness by the present Speaker, which coming from the writer is hilarious, who when accused of persistent bias during her term, flippantly and unabashedly declared that “she danced with who brought her to the dance”. I also found her defence of the MP for St. Peter most interesting, a person whom she and her party had previously despised, but who is now being politically embraced to the point where she criticizes the Speaker for not allowing that Member to read his speech, in direct contravention of Standing Order 39(10). “Politics really makes for strange bedfellows”.
DID THE MEMBER FOR ST. PHILLIPS NORTH MAKE AND SUBSCRIBE TO THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE?
- 1) Section48 (1) of the Constitution reads as follows:
“No Member of either House of Parliament shall take part in the proceedings of that House (other than proceedings necessary for the purpose of this section) until he has made and subscribed before that House the Oath of Allegiance.”
2) Standing Order 6(1) states:
“Except for the purpose of electing a Speaker and Deputy Speaker after a general election, no Member of the House shall take part in proceedings thereof until he has made and subscribed the Oath of Allegiance in the form set out in Appendix IV to these Standing Orders”.
- At the Swearing in Sitting, having been elected as Speaker by ballot, I swore the Oath of Allegiance as set out in Appendix IV, following which I signed the register and took the chair as Speaker. The Member for St. Phillips North having been duly elected swore to the Oath of Allegiance as set out in Appendix IV, following which he signed the register in the very same manner as the Speaker did, yet remarkably no one has suggested that the Speaker has not subscribed to the Oath and therefore could not have presided over the House during the Budget Speech and Budget Debate.
- Further and in addition. It must be noted that neither Section 48(1) of the Constitution or Standing Order 6(1) refers to the “swearing and subscribing to an Oath of Allegiance of a Speaker or Deputy Speaker moreover there is no form provided by the Standing Orders by which such an Oath can be taken, let alone subscribed”. My notation in the register as Speaker is merely descriptive, what is substantive is that the Oath of Allegiance taken, and subscribed, by both Speaker, and Deputy Speaker. The public may well ask who has advised the (LO) with regard to this matter. Is it his adviser, the former Speaker who one would have thought would know better, is it one or both of the frontline attorneys known to advise the UPP, the one frequently appearing on the ‘Dave Lester Payne Show’ and the other, the UPP’s defender on Facebook, or is it the freshly minted Parliamentary Advisor to the UPP, MP Asot Michael.
- SUSPENSION OF STANING ORDERS 96
- Standing Order 96 (1) reads as follows:
“Any one or more of these Standing Orders may be suspended on a motion made by a Member at any Sitting after notice or with the leave of the Speaker”.
- Standing Order 96 (2) :
“A motion under this Standing Order shall be decided without amendment or debate.”
This Standing Order clearly indicates that a Member of the House may move a Motion for the suspension of ANY Standing Order, either by notice or with leave of the Speaker.
On this occasion, the Attorney General rose to move the Motion as he was entitled to do and would have been expected to give the reasons for the Motion for suspension of Standing Order 96(1), which would have been to enable the House to debate an Amendment to the Port Authority Act, 2023, as a matter of Urgent Public Importance. Addressing the Speaker, the (LO) interrupted supposedly on a point of order, which he supported by citing Standing Order 60(3) which states:
“As soon as possible after the final draft of a Bill has been approved by the instructing Ministry/Cabinet, the Clerk shall cause the publication of the Bill in the Gazette and an electronic copy of the Bill shall be sent to the Members of the House with a physical copy being circulated to every Member of the House not less than 5 days before the Sitting.”
The Leader of the Opposition’s point of order as has been stated before was to be made “without amendment or Debate” and pursuant to Standing Order 42(3) “must put the point succinctly”.
- It can hardly be said that MP Pringle put the point of order succinctly (the Dictionary meaning being concise, expressed briefly and clearly), in fact, the Leader of the Opposition embarked on a 5 minute rant in which he debated the point of order, contrary to the expressed provision of Standing Order 42 (3). This debate consisted mainly of complaints of short service, unfairness, inability to properly debate, and a raft of other complaints which were all repeated several times. The Leader of the Opposition was clearly out of order and I could have immediately ruled against his point of order, which was obviously without merit, however I did not, as the issue was one of Public importance and contrary to the Standing Orders, I therefore allowed the Member to voice his complaints. In any event had I applied the rules, he, his Members, and his Political Advisor would have accused me of bias. In the circumstances, I correctly ruled against the point of order, on the ground that the Motion was properly moved and seconded and Standing Order 96 (1) was clearly applicable.
- During his emotional objection, the Leader of the Opposition bemoaned the fact that the mover and/or Government Leader “had not given the Opposition /members time to study the Bill and to consult with constituents”, much has been made of this by the Opposition and in her intellectually dishonest article, the former Speaker indicated that the Leader of Opposition appealed for time to caucus and consult. My question is appealed to whom? The appeal could not be directed to the Speaker who has no authority to entertain and/or rule on any such appeal or request. The way in which that can be done and has been done on a number of occasions during my tenure is to request the mover of the Motion or the Leader of Government’s Business to, through the Speaker, allow to a reasonable period of time to discuss a Motion or matter, following which by agreement, a Motion is put to the Speaker to suspend the Sitting for the period agreed by both benches. One would think that the same Speaker with her superior knowledge, “ten years’ experience in the Chair, regional workshops, and international meetings” would know this and would have advised the Leader of the Opposition either through his device of his ear piece.
- And, so in a surprising turn of events, the Leader of the Opposition, in a senseless fit of pique, and seemingly without a plan or constitution with the other Opposition Members snatched up his papers and belongings and stomped out of the House, shouting as he exited “I am not supporting that”. I have had the opportunity to observe clips of the LO’s abrupt exit, and what is noticed is the confused look on the faces of the Members. Most noticeable, was the bewildered expressions on the faces of the Members for St. John’s Rural West and All Saints West and St. Phillip’s South, and to a lesser extent the Members for St. George’s and St. Mary’s South, as they belatedly left the Chamber. The amendment to the Bill was debated and passed.
- Within the hour of the walkout to the bemusement of some and the amusement of others, the exiting Members, retired to what was described as “an undisclosed location”, but which was in point of fact a coffee shop, directly opposite the Cassada Gardens Race Track. There, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition proceeded to debate the Bill while being videoed by the ubiquitous George Whenner. A number of persons of various political persuasions have discussed the walkout with me and have made the following observations:
In what way did the walkout contribute to a debate on a Bill which was urgent public importance?
If within a very short time, each Opposition Member could speak on the issue and make a number of arguments as to the demerits of the Bill, could not these arguments have been made at the Parliamentary Sitting rather than at the coffee shop and Facebook?
Does the Leader of the Opposition and Opposition Members intend to walk out of the Parliamentary Sitting each time they are short served, or feel disrespected?
In expressing my view on this entire incident, I borrow from the late William Shakespeare, It was “much ado about nothing”.
Advertise with the mоѕt vіѕіtеd nеwѕ ѕіtе іn Antigua!
We offer fully customizable and flexible digital marketing packages.
Contact us at [email protected]
Speaker. Where they chose to go is none of your business, you’re the speaker in parliament not outside. Nobody cares how you feel. And why you praise up and condone all the wrongs the ALP is doing and always bringing down the upp be it good or bad? You did not deserve the respect of anyone in parliament, not even the alp bench respect you because they know you well, so stop the impressionist behavior.
You quoting Shakespeare. It’s like Satan correcting Sinners.You also quoted Lord Acton. Power Tends to Corrupt. Was Acton speaking to you? When he made that quote .
I really did not expect anything different from Gerry Watt. What was done in regards to the Opposition being short served. It was utter disrespectful and a disgrace to the Opposition Members of said Parliament.I agreed with them 1000% to walk to heck out then and in the future.If the same situations were to arise.
Its was telling reading this piece because I recall sharing the same thoughts as this letter (undisclosed location when its clear where they were) . The whole thing seemed like a theatrics. They missed an opportunity to debate the bill and then are on video proving their ignorance. The saga reminded me of a nagging wife moving out her home allowing the husband to now enjoy peace. The government MP’s were happy with their move and would love to see it always repeated
@Tenman: You need to go and bury your head into the sand. Expose your arse to be punted like a football. You could not see anything wrong. The Bill to be debated was given to them. When they arrived at the Parliament Building on that day. the Government side of Parliament had enough time to familiarized themselves with the Bill. In my opinion,it is BULL DUNG.You bright guy know what is DUNG.
Boi tenman…have a seat 🍆on this. Then eat your own shit💩💩💩💩💩💩
Such a foolish view
How old is this man? When and where did he get time to write all ah dis? Ah why he hate blue nigga so? Why even Stevie wonder can see his total disrespectful behaviour? Wasn’t he once a blue man? Does he have grandcillren? What can he teach the young people watching and listening? Did he ancestors own a plantation? And then he would be seen in church. Lord help us all.
This old f**t again? Go retire and relax yourself old man.
Man is a creature of habit. We do certain things for so long that it is extremely difficult to get us to change our ways even when there is a need to rise to the occasion. Whatever we as a nation is currently going through calls for a different approach. Unfortunately for us many of us are completely stuck and so we will fall victim to whatever is out there. Thank you Mr. Speaker for enlightening us on the way Parliament works. Do continue to enlighten us so that we can make informed decisions. A lot of us will listen and learn. Then again some of us will remain steeped in our ignorance. It is what it is.
@SHARON:I DO BELIEVE YOU HAD TOO MUCH “LICK-O-RISH” TO EAT.
Shouldn’t you be thinking and considering retiring at this point in your life mr.watt?
You act miserable and cantankerous in parliament…
Go sit down you old fart.😴
Comments are closed.