Eighth District Representative Marlon Penn said the opposition had to take a principled stand when it walked out of the House of Assembly (HOA) in protest of the government’s actions during the last sitting.
Penn and other opposition members accused the government of using the HOA like a rubber stamp, forcing through critical legislation — that required consultation — into one sitting and moving the order of business on the HOA’s agenda against the opposition’s wishes.
“We’ve had these discussions with you (government) privately, in terms of the concerns, in terms of your running the people’s business,” Penn complained recently. “You continue to ignore opposition business, which is also the people’s business and continue to relegate it to insignificance, and continue to do what you want with the House in making the House an extension of the Executive (Cabinet).”
But Penn insisted that the House is an independent entity and should be allowed to operate in that manner and not as a rubber stamp as the government sees fit.
“We took a principled position on that. You know, we drew a line in the sand and said, look, it’s not business as usual. We have to conduct the people’s business in a better way than they’re conducting the people’s business,” he added.
Penn said opposition members heard over three hours of statements from government ministers as the government moved the opposition’s questions to the end of the order paper against their wishes.
He also accused Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley, the leader of the government’s business in the HOA, of rushing the Suspended Trade Commission Act and the Jury Act through the House without proper consultation with the public.
According to Penn, the Jury Act in particular was very controversial when initial amendments were done and many persons were concerned in terms of the direction lawmakers were going to take it.
“But he [the Premier] came forward with those two pieces of legislation — first, second, and third reading — without giving the public an opportunity to scrutinize this legislation that would open dialogue and discussion on the implications of those changes that he was bringing forward,” Penn argued.
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