Reviewing the March 3rd 2011 Event By Ingrid Punnett

Ingrid Punnett

The Context:  Following the election of December 13th 2010, in which the ULP gained 8 seats to the NDP’s 7, Mr. Hendrick Alexander, the previously incumbent House Speaker was re-installed.  The procedure under which the installation took place is questionable; a circumstance that was raised by the Opposition Members.  Mr Alexander

acknowledged the doubtful nature of the legitimacy of his position in saying that he would confer with his colleagues to clarify the matter.  The result of such conference, if any took place, has not yet been revealed.  So, to all intents and purposes, Mr. Alexander’s position as The Speaker of the House, could well be spurious, i.e., Lacking authenticity or validity in essence or origin; not genuine; false.  This raises a question of ethics – Should Mr. Alexander not have recused (disqualified) himself from the position of Speaker until such time as the matter of his appointment had been settled?

 The incumbent Administration now wants to pass Two Bills through the House.

One is to amend the Representation of the People Act which currently punishes Elected Members who use slander to gain an unfair advantage in an election.  This is a practice that is punished in Britain on which our Parliamentary System is modeled.  

The other is the requirement that persons pursuing Private Criminal Complaints must get permission from the Director of Public Prosecutions in order to take the matter to court.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has already declared that the Bills will be a ‘fait accompli’ and that the People would just have to accept and deal with it.

 The Situation: Under the control of the doubtful legitimacy of the Speaker, The St. Vincent and the Grenadines House of Assembly continued its February sitting on March 3rd 2011.  The second of the two Bills that the Government sought to enact was to be dealt with.  The People had been protesting against the passing of these Bills.  They saw that the Bills would remove rights and protections to which they had entitlement and which, they had always enjoyed.  The Opposition in its Parliamentary submissions supported the people in their call to “KILL the BILLS”.

 In an unprecedented show of Security Services, the number of “Police” on duty in the HOUSE had been increased from its customary TWO.

During the sitting of the House and in accordance with the Rules,

1.      The Leader of the Opposition, called on the Prime Minister to withdraw the Bill that he (the PM) was trying to have enacted as Law. The Leader of the Opposition remained standing after he had made his call for withdrawal of the Bill. 

2.      He was asked to be seated by the Speaker of the House and then reminded that he had not yet yielded the floor.

3.      He agreed with the Speaker that he was still standing and clarified that he was waiting confirmation from the PM that he intended to withdraw the Bill. 

4.      The Speaker advised that he could not have two persons standing in the House at the same time.  The speaker again exhorted The Honorable Leader of the Opposition to be seated. 

5.       Mr. the Honorable Arnhim Eustace, Elected Member for East Kingstown, continued to stand. 

6.      The Speaker then invoked his (doubtful) authority and ordered that the Honorable Leader of the Opposition leave the House and that he be suspended for the next TWO sittings.  An order that was contrary to the rules of the House.

7.      The sitting was temporarily suspended and the House cleared, pending the exit of the Leader of the Opposition.  On resumption of the sitting, the Opposition Leader was still standing as before.  The PM rises/stands in order to “raise a disciplinary matter”.  Eventually there are more than two persons standing at the same time.  This is clearly a contravention of the rules of the House and flies in the face of the “authority of the Speaker”.

8.       While the Speaker does not ask the PM to sit, he orders members on the opposition side to sit and refuses to listen to their submissions. 

9.        Eventually the Speaker orders that Parliament be suspended and instructs that Members “FORCIBLY BE REMOVED”. 

10.     Opposition Members were then ‘Manhandled’ by the beefed-up House Security necessitating that several of them had to be treated in Hospital.

 Observations:  As was expected, many of the competing Party’s supporters analyzed the situation using a purely bi-partisan perspective.  That is if one could call it analysis.  By and large it was a condemnation of Mr. Eustace’s action and a justification of the Speaker’s order to forcibly clear the House.

In the fall-out from this and attendant events, one erstwhile high-ranking NDP supporter expressed shame at Mr. Eustace’s behavior and publicly renounced her membership in the Party.  As if that were not enough she mounted a campaign in which Mr. Eustace’s stand was brought to the level of a schoolchild.  She asked if children should not now listen to the instructions of their teacher.  

 This raised the following question: Should a child obey a teacher if instructed to act in a manner that is not in the best interest of the child?  And, by extension, should the Leader of the Opposition obey the instructions of the Speaker if his intuition tells him that by so doing he is not acting in the best interest of the People?

 Children should be taught at an early age that the person in authority is not necessarily a person of integrity and that any instructions given should only be followed if they conform to the dictates of conscience/intuition.  If a child is “uncomfortable” with a command or instruction then they should not follow it. There is an ongoing campaign on TV, in more enlightened countries, directed at children wherein they are advised how to react to instructions that they may receive from sexual predators and perverts.

Had that kind of campaign been conducted many years ago priests would not have gotten away with using children for sexual perversions, nor would there now be young girls between the age of 10 to 14 becoming mothers in St. Vincent without any male being made accountable for his part in the matter.

It would seem then that Mr. Eustace action has a parallel in saving us from our own future destruction.

 Many have compared Mr. Eustace’s act with that of Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on the bus.  With this comparison we miss a very important distinction.  When Rosa Park refused to give up her seat she was sitting in that part of the bus reserved for “blacks”.  She was within her rights, albeit under an unjust law, to refuse. 

 When England legislated that the English should hold the monopoly on the manufacture and sale of salt in India, the intent was to take away from the Indians a right, freedom and personal need that Indians had been able to fulfill from time immemorial.  The Mahatma Ghandi protested against the English Law by leaving his farm and walking 27 miles to the sea.  Along the route thousands joined him and, at the sea, they made salt for themselves.  Today this event is called the “Salt March”.

  Current legislation gives Vincentians an inalienable right to pursue justice and they have the freedom to do so in a Court of Law.  An Act of Parliament that would give any Director of Public Prosecution the right to determine who can seek justice in the court is equivalent to the British’s monopoly of the salt resources of India. 

 On March 3rd 2011, Mr. Eustace took the first step of Vincentians March for Justice. Will we march with him to the sea of Democracy and make our own salt of Freedom?

  

This article was first posted on Facebook as a note on March 07, 2011. It is posted on Vinci Kallaloo with the author’s permission.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Helen on March 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    In my first article I clearly stated “there were parliamentary dealings by these ULP devils that were overlooked” BINGO THIS WAS ONE OF THEM! No one blew the INTERNATIONAL WHISTLE ON THESE CROOKS LOUDLY! Now things are falling apart, because the NDP abdicated their responsibility as the Opposition party keeping the ULP in check and nipping things in the bud; they are brawling all over the place and trying to rip our country apart! NDP YOU HAVE FAILED OUR NATION, YOU CANNOT DESTROY WHAT IS LEFT OF OUR DIGNITY AND OUR NATIONAL PRIDE! PLEASE REBOOT, REFURBISH, AND REFORM YOURSELVES QUICKLY… A NEW LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION PARTY WHETHER ITS NDP OR ANOTHER NAME, IS IMPERATIVE FOR THE RECONSTRUCTION OF OUR DEMOCRACY AND OUR NATION!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Helen on March 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Was there a vigorous campaign to REMOVE this “illegitimate” SPEAKER of the House by the NDP Leadership? I have never heard or seen any protests or aggressive action regarding this issue by the NDP before! The fact that he was the permanent “illegitimate” official to fill that seat proves the impotence and inefficient functioning of the NDP! I have made my point of view clear on this the issue regarding the bills, so no need to repeat myself… I prefer to focus on the matter at hand. Had the NDP displayed this high tempo drama to alert the world of this “questionable” appointed Speaker of the House, they would have had a moral leg to stand on when explaining this disturbing choreographed rebellion to the world. Unfortunately it is a little too late at this stage in the game, the explanations are too late! Do you think that the world is going to accept your premise that The Speaker is of “doubtful qualifications”as a justification for this disturbing and gross misconduct in The People’s House? No, it is not sufficient! It is YOUR FAULT! YOU WERE ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH WHEN ALL THESE CROOKED AND SCHEMING NONSENSE WERE TAKING ROOT IN OUR DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS! You woke up too late! Guess what, WHETHER THIS SPEAKER IS DUBIOUS AND BIASED, YOU STILL MUST RESPECT THE CHAIR! IT IS YOUR LACK OF LEADERSHIP FAULT THAT CAUSED AN UNQUALIFIED OFFICIAL TO BE PLACED IN THAT CHAIR! The Speaker requested over and over again almost pleading with Mr Eustace to take a seat. Mr Eustace should have obeyed! No, you folks are too self centered and mischievous to respect The people’s House! Some of you even have the audacity to broadcast to the world that this was a planned event! This is not hear-say, this was spoken by NDP leaders themselves!

    Woe to all of you! Please do not insult anyones intelligence with these pitiful and weak explanations because the world has seen all the disturbing evidence! You people are not Leaders you are destroyers and mischief makers for your own selfish purposes. Do what is right for our Nation! Build a strong, progressive and respectful Opposition team. Stop the child’s play and the obscene brawling in OUR HOUSE! Take your disorder into the street where it belongs! Finally, you may have reservations about the legitimacy of The Speaker( which you failed to loudly express before), THAT IS YOUR PROBLEM! RESPECT IS STILL DUE TO THE CHAIR! NO MORAL VINCENTIAN WOULD SUPPORT YOUR DISRESPECTFUL BEHAVIOR! APOLOGIZE TO THE NATION, AND HAVE SOME DECORUM!

    Reply

  3. Ingrid were you at the protest? anyone has the right party or not party to say how they view this whole fisco becasue this is what it was. If you cannot disagree with your party then something is worng with you. Mr. Eustace made a public display which called for public reaction. There is no Rosa Parks in the issue and no Martin Luther King.

    You need to explain why Mr. Eustace is dare to mount a protest with over 500 people. I will answer this for you, his people do not agree with him they do not beleive that he is protesting the bills. If he did not bring in the Grenadines it would of been a total failure.

    You need to explain what rights are taken away because the majority of Vincentians do not agree with you that any rights were taken away. The numbers at the protests speak for themselves.

    Let Mr. Eustace contiune to protest as we expect him to becasue this is very, very good for his party. The bunch that he has behind him 4 out the 7 are mental patients it seems like.

    Again everyone has a right to publicly address this issue and if someone from the NDP did that as you said there is nothing absolultey wrong with this, isn’t this the freedom the NDP say they want to die for but here you from the NDP want to kill one of your members for the same freedome some want to die what. what a world Ingird. You can sit there and cover dust that is also your right but do not ridcule anyone who wants to talk out, inside, outside all people are free in SVG so let us leave it that way, what is good for you is also good for this person, let freedom rign.

    Reply

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