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Speaker of House clears Strangers’ Gallery

Speaker of House clears Strangers’ Gallery

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There was almost as much drama within the walls of the House of Assembly as there was outside its gates last Friday, January 28.{{more}}

At about 4:23 p.m., shortly before the House began debate on the Bill to amend the Criminal Procedure Code, Speaker of the House Hendrick Alexander ordered that everyone seated in the Strangers’ Gallery be evicted.

“I am going to order that the Strangers’ Gallery be cleared, now!” Alexander exclaimed.

“Take them out, please. Clear now! I have just warned you about it. I want everyone of you down there to leave the Strangers’ Gallery! Honourable members, this sitting is suspended until that Gallery is cleared!”

The Speaker took this action following loud cheering from the Strangers’ Gallery during a presentation by Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown St. Claire Leacock.

During his welcome remarks, the Speaker had asked the persons seated in the audience, known as the Strangers’ Gallery, to conduct themselves “in a proper manner”.

“The House has rules and any disorder will be dealt with according to the rules of the House. I am begging people, please, let us have some cooperation in here,” Alexander said.

During his welcome, the Speaker had also voiced his displeasure at statements he said had been made by Senator Vynnette Frederick outside the Parliament building, that he (the Speaker) was trying to limit the number of people allowed inside the House.

“I take that as a matter of trying to incite people into coming to the House, and I do not take that matter lightly.”

Leacock, in responding to the Speaker said “I see the potential for things to get out of hand here this evening, and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are determined that their voices

be heard and that their Parliamentarians have a clear message of what is their mood. I had that exchange with you with respect to numbers; that is a follow-up with what I had with the police high command.”

“After my discussion with you, I gave no indication to suggest that you were taking an action that was inimical to the proper control of the Parliament. But what the Honourable Senator said, may well not be out of sync with what I said. She said you had decided to limit the numbers of persons in Parliament. You have in fact so decided. But you have so decided for good reason. This is my assumption. But to read into it that there is some going back on my discourse with you, I just want it to be very clear that is not the case,” Leacock said.

“The Honourable Senator gave an interpretation, but we also need not be punitive with the way we approach the statement that is coming from her,” Leacock added.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, taking the floor, said he was perplexed by the comment made by Leacock, relating to the voice of the people and their mood.

“We have a representative democracy. This parliament, which makes laws, and these laws are assented to by the Governor General and then published in the Gazette and become operational, and we just had an event called a general elections, where people elected representatives to represent them,” he said.

“I don’t know that we are at a stage where there is something called mob rule. I know that there is a representative democracy, and I happen to speak on behalf of the majority in this country, but I also know what is their mood.”

In addition to mood, there is something called strength, the PM said.

“This government will not be bullied in any way, at all, or browbeaten, by any sense of disorder, or any threats or anything of the sort.”

Leacock, again taking the floor, said “I have been a practitioner of law and order in this country. I know what it is about. I am a responsible Vincentian. Perhaps I have been more so than the Prime Minister for many years.”

“He boasts of coming to government by a Road Block Revolution!” Leacock exclaimed.

It was at this point that cheers broke out in the Strangers’ Gallery, following which the Speaker suspended the House and ordered that it be cleared.

However, when the session resumed at about 4:30 p.m., the Prime Minister said “in the interest of truth and accuracy,” he wished to respond to Leacock’s statement.

“The ULP did not come to office by way of any Road Block Revolution,” he said.

“We came by way of an election conducted by the Supervisor of Elections under the laws of this country, when the Honorable Arnhim Eustace was Prime Minister. The verdict was 12-3.”

“Mr. Speaker, it is the NDP propagandists and columnists and commentators who have called it a Road Block Revolution. Not me. They are the ones who have popularized this concept.”

“We came to authority in this country not by a road block revolution, but by way of general elections,” Gonsalves said.