The Speaker’s Letter to Members of The Opposition

anguillian
By anguillian December 6, 2013 09:01

The Speaker’s Letter to Members of The Opposition

 

November 27th, 2013

Hon. Evans McNeil Rogers

Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool

Hon. Edison Baird

Anguilla House ofAssembly

The Valley

Anguilla

West Indies

 

Dear Hon. Evans McNeil Rogers, Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool, Hon Edison A. Baird

I wish to acknowledge your letter of 20th November, 2013. Firstly, I would like to put on record my absolute disappointment with you three honourable members of the Anguilla House of Assembly for discussing, publicizing and broadcasting in the public domain, a letter meant for me before you had the decency to deliver said letter to me first. This has demonstrated an utter disrespect to and disregard for the Office of Speaker of the Anguilla House of Assembly. Please remember that by virtue of your election to one of the most important offices in the land, you are expected to be role models for your Constituency and by extension our island, Anguilla. You have fallen way short of the required exemplary behavior that is expected of Members of the House of Assembly. Surely this is not the kind of standard we would expect our young people to emulate.

Addressing your letter more specifically, I wish to underscore the fact and express without fear or favour, that I have at all times sought to act fairly and in accordance with the established principles and procedures as prescribed by the Legislative Assembly (Procedure) Rules 1976 and the Constitution of Anguilla. In the discharge of my duties I have always sought to ensure parity between the members on both sides of the aisle and to encourage respect and professionalism by all and therefore, for any of you or all of you to impugn my character, my integrity and my conduct is utterly reprehensible.

With respect to paragraphs 2 and 3 of your letter, which brings into question the legality of the passage of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility Act 2013 and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Act 2013 which you highlighted to bolster your displeasure at my ruling on the basis that in your view there was a lack ofa quorum in the House, I believe that it is repetitious but important for me to recite the principles on the issue of the quorum. However, I am putting it to you that as Speaker of the House, the legitimacy of my actions on that occasion are beyond reproach in that, the record shows that at no time did the Honourable Attorney General, the Honourable Acting Deputy Governor or the Honourable Second Nominated Member rise on the floor to raise the issue of a quorum.

Certainly, you ought to know and the point has to be made, that a quorum in the House of Assembly is not made up of the elected members only, but of the totality of the membership of the House. A meeting can be convened without a Quorum. However, once it has started, it is not within the Speaker’s jurisdiction to stop that meeting for the perceived lack of a quorum unless a member rises in objection. If no one rises to point out that a quorum is not present, it simply means that they concur with the business ofthat meeting.

Furthermore, I am again putting it to you that the record shows that all of you Honourable Members who were signatories to your protesting letter, were absent from the sitting of the House of Assembly meeting on that said day and patently neither did any of you see it fit to make an inquiry to access the recorded facts before operating like loose cannons and using the events to mislead the Public in what is obviously political maneuvering. Since the facts of this particular issue are obviously foreign to all of you honourable gentlemen, at the expense of being repetitious, the record of the Anguilla Constitution Order 1982, Section 52 (l) specifically shows that it is not for the Speaker to raise the issue ofa quorum. May I also remind you that your absence without notifying the Clerk causes you to be in breach of Rule 4 (1) which states, “any Member unable to attend a meeting or meetings of the Assembly to which he has been summoned shall acquaint the Clerk in writing as early as possible of his inability to attend.”

 

With respect to paragraph 4 of your letter regarding notice of emergency meetings, I would like to refer you to Section 2. (1) of the Legislative Assembly (Procedures) Rules 1976; in accordance thereof, all members were properly notified. Surely, you must be fully aware that when an emergency meeting is called, immediacy is brought into focus. At the expense of again being repetitious, let me state that there is no prescribed time for notice other than urgency and in my capacity as Speaker, I am authorized to set the time of the meeting and to communicate to Members by such means as the urgency demands (Section 2 (1) of the Legislative Assembly (Procedure) Rules 1976. This was in fact done.

As it relates to Paragraph 5 of your letter, I wish to again draw your attention to the Constitution of Anguilla by which I am guided and which makes it pellucidly clear in Section 53 (1), “save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, all questions proposed for decision in the Assembly shall be determined by a majority of votes of the members present and voting.”

Personally I do not take kindly to your remarks of me as Speaker of the House about having scant regard for the Rules of Procedure or being a rubber stamp for the Honourable House of Assembly, where accountability and oversight are within the purview of Her Majesty’s Government. In this regard, it is quite clear that your letter lacks even a mere iota of honesty, consistency and substance. Instead, it is more to the point of character assassination and creating discontent within the Honourable House of Assembly and outside the House, than it is about factual content; that therefore, can be construed as disingenuous, malicious and downright disrespectful.

In Paragraph 6 of your letter, you made reference to the Education Bill. Like every other Bill in the House of Assembly, Bills are processed in the interest of the Public and as I saw it applicable then, I look at it now and as I would in the future, it is imperative to ensure that the Public always-always has an opportunity to deliberate on any Bill, whenever possible. It has never been, it certainly is not and definitely will never be about postponing a Bill; it is simply about the involvement and the participation ofthe Public and above all, ensuring transparency.

Personally, my belief is that there ought to be in place an independent person, whose duty it is to vet Bills before they are tabled; again in the interest of the Public.

You ought to recall that I addressed the Assembly to refrain from discussion on that Bill, notwithstanding the fact that it had been proffered by the majority of members on the Government bench, on the basis that the Education Bill was a very elaborate social Bill affecting the island at large and of equal importance, was the fact that my office had been inundated with calls from the Public seeking greater consultation before its passage. I therefore fail to see the relevance of the charge you have levelled at me in the conduct of the House being used as a rubber stamp, when in fact, my actions were opposite to such a position. All of this was done in the interest of the people of Anguilla who elected you and whom the House of Assembly is primarily and ultimately meant to serve.

Now moving on, may I draw your attention to the proceedings of the House of Assembly on 20th November, 2013 when you took it upon yourselves to disrespectfully walk out of the Assembly without informing me, as Speaker. Since it appears that you do not know your rules and duties and for the benefit of your education, I would like to refer you to the Legislative Assembly (Procedure) Rules 1976 Sec 4 (2) which states, “No member shall leave the Assembly or a Committee of the Assembly except with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairman of the Committee.” I am therefore putting it to you, that you are in breach of this rule and have yet again displayed your contempt for, total disrespect to and utter disregard for the Office of the Speaker, the House of Assembly and the country as a whole.

Contrary to what has been said and for the benefit of all concerned, I would like to remind you that there are set rules and guidelines in any established organization and more so, in the House of Assembly, in that, a detailed agenda is set out before coming to the sitting. Collectively, you have over thirty (30) years in this Honourable House and by now YOU OUGHT TO KNOW that it is by a set agenda that we proceed to transact the business of the people in an orderly manner. We do not come up and talk about things arbitrarily! While the Rules do allow for motions to be raised without notice (Section 20), those rules apply relative only to matters that arise during the ordinary course of proceedings during that particular sitting. In this regard, I was very accommodating, lenient and more importantly fair, in allowing your unannounced motion to be given consideration after the scheduled business of the House.

Based on these facts and from your behavior and obvious lack of knowledge of the Constitution and the Legislative Rules and Procedures, I have come to the conclusion that there is an absolute and urgent need for an established training programme to assist our Legislators in the comprehension and interpretation of our Constitution and the Legislative Procedures and Rules. I trust that by the above explanations, I have clarified the concerns of your communication.

However, I would like to add that your puerile, irresponsible, malicious and vexatious attacks do not in any way add to your knowledge of the rules, regulations and workings of-the Anguilla House of Assembly. Our country needs men to stand up and be counted for worth and I sincerely hope that you will now act as honourable gentlemen, will redouble your efforts and in the future, make a positive and constructive impact and participate in the affairs of the country as we move seriously to transact the business of the people of this country with knowledge and aplomb.

Sincerely

 

Barbara Webster-Bourne (Mrs.)

Speaker-Anguilla House of Assembly

Cc: All Members of the Anguilla House of Assembly

H.E. Christina Scott, Governor

Media

 

anguillian
By anguillian December 6, 2013 09:01

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