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July 27, 2012
Opposition Leader loses his cool in Parliament

Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace says that he is not ready to disclose just yet what other measures the New Democratic Party (NDP) intends to take, as Opposition members seek to have the Speaker of the House, Hendrick Alexander removed.{{more}}

Eustace, during a press briefing on June 6, said the Opposition was calling on Alexander to step down and had sent a letter to this effect on June 5. He said the Opposition would take further action if the Speaker did not go.

But Eustace told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednedsay he was not ready to say what action the NDP would be taking.

“We are not going to say ahead of time,” he said during a telephone interview.

“Basically the Speaker is not able to distinguish himself as Speaker and his support for the ULP (Unity Labour Party) as a party,” the Opposition Leader continued.

According to Eustace, the Speaker of the House simply does anything to prevent the Opposition from raising issues, particularly motions and points of order.

“We are always wrong as far as he is concerned,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.

Eustace also expressed his disgust at the Speaker’s behaviour on Tuesday during a sitting of the House of Assembly.

“Yesterday (Tuesday) I rose under [Standing Order] 81.1 … under which things which have not been covered by previous rules can be covered under that particular section.”

“He knows that, yet he did not want me to use that section,” Eustace explained, adding that he just went ahead.

Eustace’s uncharacteristic outburst on Tuesday, came just after the ‘Announcements by the Speaker’ segment of the Parliamentary session, but was preceded by a showdown between the Speaker and Parliamentary Representative for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings, during the ‘Confirmation of Minutes’ segment.

Cummings had raised an objection to a section of the minutes from the May 31 meeting of the House.

According to Cummings, the minutes did not accurately reflect what had transpired during that session of Parliament, when he and Godwin Friday, Parliamentary Representative for the Northern Grenadines were both seeking a ruling from the Speaker on a matter.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves joined the debate saying that the minutes only give an overview of what transpires in the House, whereas the Hansard records, word for word,what every member says.

Immediately following the prime minister’s presentation, Cummings stoppd up in an attempt to respond.

The Speaker however said that he was not going to allow Cummings to debate the issue.

“I’m not debating this issue, this issue is not for debate – you made a statement, the Honourable Prime Minister, I obliged to make a point, I am going to deal with the point now,” the Speaker said.

“What are you moving, an amendment to the minutes?” Alexander questioned.

“That is correct, I am saying it does not reflect what transpired,” Cummings responded, adding that he thought that it was important that all that had transpired be contained in the minutes because as it was, it may appear that the matter was dealt with.

This prompted Eustace to rise a while after.

“Mr Speaker, when I listened to the first session of Parliament today and the Prime Minister made his comments afterwards, I noted something a bit different. There was an atmosphere which indicated clearly, little disunity which is often the case,” Eustace said.

“I have written to you as Leader of the Opposition, a letter signed by all the members of the Opposition, to which I have not gotten an acknowledgment,” he continued.

“We have a number of issues which there has been no ruling, which have come up time after time, after time in this Honourable House in which we cannot get redress, Mr Speaker,” he contended.

“They come up over and over again, comments have been made – you have made comments publicly – I wrote and other members of the opposition signed and not even an acknowledgment.”

“Mr Speaker, we can’t have it both ways you know, all of us are elected to this Parliament by the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines … I have been here for 14 consecutive years … I write a letter as the Leader of the Opposition to the Speaker of the Parliament of St Vincent and the Grenadines signed by all the members of the Opposition and I can’t even get an acknowledgment.”

During his speech, Eustace noted that issues had been raised by members of the Opposition and information presented, yet it was difficult for the NDP to get a ruling.

“This has to change – the Parliament cannot continue to operate on this basis. We are here in an 8-7 position, we represent a significant number of people in this country and I am tired of coming here time after time on these matters without getting any redress whatsoever!” Eustace shouted.

The Leader of the Opposition told SEARCHLIGHT that he regarded the Speaker’s behaviour in the House as “ridiculous” and that the opposition had lost all confidence in Alexander.

“As I pointed out, there is only a one seat difference in terms of elected members in the House which are a significant number of persons in the country who have put us in the Parliament and that is not respected at all,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile in his response to Eustace during Tuesday’s sitting of the House, Alexander said that while he allowed Eustace to speak, he should not have done so, explaining that there was a formal procedure the Opposition needed to follow if there were any issues to be taken up about the Speaker.

“I had no right to allow you to speak you know. But as in the spirit of goodwill I allowed you,” Alexander said.

“You wrote a letter asking for my resignation, what am I supposed to say? Yes I will resign; or no I will not?” resign?” he continued.