UNC: Government abusing Standing Orders by holding sittings during recess of House of Representatives
The Rowley-led administration’s continued attempts to convene the House of Representatives during the fixed recess are a breach and abuse of the Standing Orders. This, according to former Speaker of the House and Opposition Senator Wade Mark, at a media briefing held on Thursday 19th July, 2018 at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.
“The Government has been seeking, Friday after Friday in contravention and violation of Standing Orders 11,12 and 14 of the House of Representatives,” Senator Mark noted.
“The House was adjourned sine die consistent with Standing Order 14, which states the barring urgent or extraordinary reasons the House shall not have any settings from the first week in the month of July to the first week in the month of September in any year,” Senator Mark said.
The former Speaker of the House outlined the procedure for convening an extraordinary sitting of the House, as clearly outlined in Standing Order 13. “Standing Order 13 compels the Speaker to write to the Clerk of the House and the Clerk, in turn, must specify in writing to each member of the House the precise and exact business to be transacted at the extraordinary Sitting of the House, but from my information this has not been done,” he said.
Senator Mark noted that the Revised Standing Orders only took effect on Monday 4th August 2014 at the commencement of the Fifth Session of the Tenth Parliament. He reminded that the Fourth Session of the Tenth Parliament was adjourned on 28th July 2014 to a date to be fixed. The Parliament was prorogued and a new session which constituted the Fifth session of the Tenth Parliament began with a ceremonial opening on Monday, August 4, 2014, at which time the Revised Standing Orders were in effect.
“As such Standing Orders 11,13 and 14 came into existence on that day, when the Leader of Government Business at the time, Dr. Roodal Moonilal moved the adjournment of the House to Monday, August 11th, 2014, which was agreed to by both sides of the House,” he stated. “You will recall that there was a chorus of objections by the PNM Opposition to any sitting of the House on August 4th, 2014, as they claimed that the Standing Orders were being violated, but this was an ordinary sitting in a new session of Parliament.”
“As the Speaker of the House at that time, I had cause to set the record straight by placing on the Hansard record the following statement. ‘On August 4th 2014 Members without any objection to the Motion agreed, that the House be adjourned to Monday, August 11th, 2014’.”
“It is, therefore, wrong for anyone to claim that the UNC convened the House during the fixed recess when it was in office,” Senator Mark stressed.
Further, he noted that an Extraordinary Sitting must be clearly stated on the Order Paper being issued to Members of Parliament, which has not been done. Senator Mark concluded that “There is no basis or solid rationale being advanced by the Rowley Government for these repeated sittings of the House which is not changing anything whatsoever, and which could be addressed at the end of the recess period. Nothing is going to change by bringing the House week after week to simply say no to candidates on the Merit List or Order. This could easily be done in mid-September 2018 when the Parliament resumes its business.”
“Members on both sides of the House are being punished because of the Government’s procedural blunder,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”
Opposition Chief Whip Dr. David Lee, who was also on hand at the media briefing noted that the last sitting of the House was the second sitting in the month of July, which was not an extraordinary sitting but an ordinary one. “Members of the Opposition submitted Prime Minister’s Questions, Urgent Questions and Matters on the Adjournment, only to be told on the morning of the sitting by the Acting Clerk of the House that the only matter that would be dealt with is the motion to approve the notification of nomination of Mr. Harold Phillip to the Office of Commissioner of Police.
“So we are being called back week after week and are being denied the opportunity to raise issues of public importance,” the Opposition Chief Whip said.
MP Lee criticized the Government’s abuse of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, and the continued restriction of Opposition Members of Parliament to raise matters of public importance in the Parliament.