Opposition won’t return to House without CMO’s input
Opposition leader, Dr Godwin Friday will only deliver his response to finance minister Camillo Gonsalves’ Budget address once the Chief Medical Officer approves the appropriate circumstances in which to do so.
Friday was scheduled to deliver his response today, Tuesday, January 11 in Parliament at 9 am, but the sitting was postponed after finance minister, Camillo Gonsalves and minister of Urban Development, Julian Francis returned positive COVID19 results on rapid tests.
Gonsalves and Francis join education and agriculture ministers; Curtis King and Saboto Caesar who tested positive for the virus over the weekend.
“Now we have the Budget to be debated. I was looking forward this morning to the presentation of my response to the Budget that was presented yesterday by the minister of finance,” Friday said during a press conference this afternoon. “In sum, the Budget lacked substance and I wanted the opportunity to present that; and I will do so but I will only be there to do so under the proper circumstances approved by the Chief Medical Officer…”
Today’s sitting, which was scheduled to start at 9 am was delayed for over an hour before the postponement was announced.
The opposition leader said he received a call this morning from Speaker of the House, Rochelle Forde who informed him that the start of Parliament would be delayed to conduct testing, which was to be done at the House of Assembly.
Under the revised protocols of the House, all members, regardless of their vaccination status, are required to be tested every morning and return a negative test result, before they can enter the chamber.
Friday said when he arrived at the House sometime after 9 am, he was informed by one of his colleagues that the finance minister had tested positive and had left the building.
He also learned that Francis had tested positive as well.
“The Prime Minister was not present at the time, nor was Deputy Prime Minister Daniel. No one informed me officially about the developments but of course, we learnt of them. I spoke with the Speaker who was present throughout and eventually told her that the situation had become untenable and I myself, and other members felt that it was not safe in the Chamber,” the opposition leader said. “My colleagues and I left the chamber and gathered for a while in the courtyard of the Parliament building. We agreed that in the circumstances, we would not return to the House today.”
Friday said that everyone’s safety is his “paramount concern” and that he has “a special responsibility to my colleagues as the leader of the opposition, as their leader in the House, to take decisions to protect their interest and wellbeing”.
He added that COVID19 is a serious issue and as such, everyone must protect themselves.
“I want my colleagues to be safe and to feel safe when we show up for work at the Parliament building to do the people’s business. We know that it is important business but I don’t think that in the circumstances, the risk of infection would override the need to have the Parliament done today. This can be done at some other time,” Friday said.
The Budget exercise was initially intended to begin on December 13 but was delayed in the first instance to January 3 to accommodate the state funeral of former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell.
It was again postponed from January 3 to January 10 and Friday said this was because the Speaker had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID19.
“She told me this herself by telephone and she said that she had been directed by the Chief Medical Officer not to attend the Parliament. So Parliament was postponed from January 3 to 10,” he said.
Friday also said that “certainly, in light of what transpired today, the notion of returning to Parliament and simply conducting business without the input of the Chief Medical Officer, is simply not on”.
Today’s sitting of Parliament was postponed to tomorrow, January 12 and is scheduled to begin at 9 am.