I write seeking clarification on two recently held sittings on July 3rd and 9th, 2018 as well as the forthcoming sitting of July 20th, 2018, all held during the Fixed Recess period, as per our Standing Orders.
As you may be aware, Standing Order 14 (Fixed Recess) states, “Notwithstanding Standing Order 11 (Meeting Days) and subject to Standing Order 13 (Extraordinary Sitting), unless there are urgent or extraordinary reasons for so doing, no sitting of the House of Representatives shall be held from the first week in the month of July to the first week in the month of September in any year.”.
To date, in this current session of Parliament, two sittings of the House of Representatives have been convened (on the dates cited above) for which respective Order Papers were issued indicating that such sittings were Ordinary Sittings and not Extraordinary Sittings. The Order Paper issued for the sitting to be held on Friday July 20, 2018 similarly reflects an Ordinary Sitting (No. 40).
At the last sitting of the House of Representatives held on Monday July 09, 2018, the Chief Whip sought clarification from the Hon. Speaker, to which the House was told, and I quote, “Whip, as you are correct. We are proceeding under Standing Order 14; Fixed Recess, business during fixed recess…specific business.”.
Unfortunately, the ruling by the Hon. Speaker has served only to further obfuscate the matter, for which I seek your clarification. To my understanding, there is no clear provision for holding a sitting in accordance with Standing Order 14, as cited by the Hon. Speaker. The spirit and intent of Standing Order 14 in my respectful opinion, does not give cause by way of exception but merely states in the obstructive that, “no sitting of the House of Representatives shall be held from the first week…”.
Any justification for convening a sitting outside of the Fixed Recess period, such sitting not being an Ordinary one, by virtue of there being “urgent or extraordinary reasons for so doing”, is therefore in accordance with Standing Order 13 (Extraordinary Sitting). This is further compounded by the fact that the House was adjourned “sine die” on both July 03 and July 09, 2018.
If there is no basis under Standing Order 14 for convening such a sitting, then why are the sittings of July 3rd, 9th and 20th not deemed Extraordinary Sittings, as they ought to be? I believe that this matter should be urgently clarified and brought to the attention of the Speaker at earliest convenience.