Civil Society Disgusted With PM, Speaker’s Actions LK Hewlett Story Updated: January 19 th 2015 at 11:00 am
Four civil society organisations have condemned the actions of Prime Minister Denzil Douglas and Speaker of the National Assembly Curtis Martin in last Friday’s emergency sitting of parliament. “The machinations of the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the National Assembly undermined our democracy and appear to be an attempt to stifle access to the Court and the protection of the law,” the NGOs said in a press release issued this morning (Jan 19). Shortly before 4pm on January 16, opposition parliamentarians received notice that there would be an emergency session of parliamentarians at 4. The session was convened sometime after 4pm and the opposition MPs were not allowed to debate a resolution being tabled by PM Douglas to change constituency boundaries. The Speaker kicked MPs Hon. Eugene Hamilton and Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris out of the session but allowed Hon. Sam Condor to speak for a while before shutting him down. He refused to hear any of the other opposition MPs despite their agitation and pleas to be allowed to debate the motion on the floor. The Speaker allowed Dr. Douglas to read the contents of a draft proclamation and amid opposition protest, passed the resolution and told the MPs “We are done.” The PM then proceeded to dissolve parliament. The NGOs- Evangelical Society, Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Christian Council, and Small Business Forum noted their “disgust” with what transpired. “The civil organizations…listened with utter disgust to the abuse of the National Assembly perpetrated in its emergency sitting on…Friday, 16 th January 2015. The refusal of the Speaker to allow member of the Opposition benches who wished to do so to speak on the motion to change constituency boundaries was a biased attack on the democratic process and the Rule of Law and a deliberate insult to the inhabitants of the country represented by those members,” the NGOs said. They too decried the short/lack of notice given the opposition members about the sitting, ‘the blatant disregard of the rights” of MPs, and the “haste” in which the Governor General signed the proclamation and it was gazette; and the immediate dissolution of parliament after the sitting. “These suggest an orchestrated plan to frustrate the rights of the opposition Members to exercise their constitutional right to contest the changes the changes of the boundaries proposed by the government,” they grouping stated. The NGOs demanded that the upcoming elections be conducted with fairness and decorum.