A total of 13 legislators usually make up the House of Assembly but, typically, no more than four are present for any of the scheduled start times of parliamentary proceedings, Speaker of the House of Assembly Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe has reported.
These absentee legislators seldom, if ever, include the Opposition which, before this week, only comprised two members — Andrew Fahie and Julian Fraser.
The Speaker of the House has described this as a stark disrespect on the part of the previous 11-member Dr D Orlando Smith-led government.
She said even though notice of House of Assembly meetings is typically given several days in advance, “persons” continue to schedule other events on the day that sittings are slated to happen.
“They continue to invite members to the events on the day and [at] the same start time of the sitting. But, worse, some members go to the events. So, if members go to the events, why should anybody (members of the public) tune in to listen or even come to [parliamentary proceedings]?. The sad thing is I have to sit here, the staff has to sit here, the media people come expecting to report, the public tunes in to their radio, a lot of the elderly stick to ZBVI [radio] waiting. That, for me, is most embarrassing. Words fail me because I have an issue with it — a serious issue,” the noticeably upset Speaker told members of the House on Tuesday.
Premier among the culprits
The very thing she was complaining about happened that same day with government leader Dr Smith being among the culprits. While he agreed with the Speaker and offered what could be considered a plausible explanation for his tardiness this time ’round, Speaker Moses-Scatliffe has still underscored how the situation has become common practice.
“I’ve spoken about it several times before till I stopped talking and its really a disservice to the House, to myself, to yourselves as members, to the public … We have no respect for what we call the highest institution in the territory,” she said. “Albeit you’re all fully aware of the sitting times and the commencement date for the sitting, we still continue to take it secondary or third or even fourth and the lesser things [get] prioritised.”
“I have at every sitting and at every informal meeting had to apologise for the delay in the start of the proceedings due to not having a quorum (the minimum number of legislators that must be present to begin a sitting) to start at the designated time. This is a situation that quite frankly has become untenable as members are fully aware of their duties to the House of Assembly.
According to local policy, the quorum of the House must consist of at least seven members, besides the person presiding over the sitting.
Lengthy delays causing rushed HOA proceedings
Moses-Scatliffe spoke on the issue after it was highlighted in a formal letter of complaint from Opposition Leader Fahie.
“Members have to come and do the people’s work. That is why under the ‘Other Business’ [segment] (when members have the opportunity to make any statements they may have on any unscheduled matters) you hear me get angry when I hear that we have five minutes or ten minutes [to speak] because we are here sitting down for an hour and change, sometimes more, and then when it gets late, then we have to speed up the finish. So, the people’s business has to be sped up,” Fahie said on Tuesday.
“Say what you want about Fraser and I but we are always here.”
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