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Ballah to be reinstated as senator

Ballah to be reinstated as senator
Rochard Ballah

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says it will not be “too long from now” that Vincentians see the return of Rochard Ballah to the House of Assembly.

Gonsalves’ comments came just two days after he had Ballah’s senatorship revoked in a decision he described as the government’s “defence of representative democracy”.

Ballah, who was appointed as a government senator in November 2020, was among eight government MPs who tested positive for COVID-19 infection last week; a situation which consequently caused a stall to the 2022 Budget Debate.

After members on the opposition benches decided to stay away from Parliament, in light of the covid situation, Gonsalves took the decision to replace the COVID-19 positive senator with former government minister, Rene Baptiste, so as to have a quorum in the House and be able to pass the Appropriation Bill by the close of that work week.

“They didn’t know what I had in my head and nobody knew what I had in my head until four o clock Friday morning when I got up and I told Eloise what I’m going to do…” Gonsalves said on WEFM’s Issues at Hand programme last Sunday, January 16.

“I got up, brush my teeth, got myself a cup of coffee at 4:30 a.m. The first person I told was Julian [Francis]and then I made the various calls because I knew I could complete everything within the period — and by the way, not only did I have Rene tested to see if she was okay, I also had Burns Bonadie…just in case somebody else of the number had tested positive, so I had another person; I would’ve removed Julian,” the prime minister said.

Government senator, Julian Francis was also found to be positive for COVID-19 during last week’s debate.

Gonsalves said on Sunday that what he did was well within the rights outlined in the constitution, and that the revocation of the senatorship would have been temporary, so as to allow for the passage of the Budget.

When it was announced on January 10, that two government ministers had tested positive, Gonsalves suggested in Parliament that members be able to vote remotely via telephone.

His suggestion was rejected by Opposition Leader Dr.Godwin Friday, who at the time said that the Standing Orders did not permit this to take place and that it was also a premature suggestion.

Gonsalves expressed an urgency to have the Budget passed by January 14, and remarked that he would bring COVID positive ministers in Parliament in order to do so.

“I didn’t say definitely I would do it…I later explained that it was a rhetorical statement. Now they understand it was a rhetorical decoy,” the prime minister pointed out, adding that he had formulated the idea since January 10 when only two of his members had tested positive at the time because he envisioned the possibility of what could happen.

Though none of their members had tested positive for COVID-19, three were required to quarantine due to exposure to Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves who delivered a four-hour Budget presentation on Monday afternoon and tested positive on a rapid test the next morning.

Given the numerous positive cases in Parliament, Friday suggested that the proceedings be delayed by one week to allow for everyone affected to be able to participate.

“I wasn’t going to sit back and allow them (the Opposition) to subvert representative democracy and to hold up the people’s business. For what?,” Gonsalves queried. “Take the VEEP (Volcano Eruption Emergency Project) project; money is there and we wouldn’t be able to spend it if we delay because they wanted, in their anti-national manner, they wanted to say they are the ones who determine if I pass the Budget or not. But the people determined that in 2020, November the 5th,” he emphasised.

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