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Speaker demands order as ‘spittle’ comment sets emotions aflame

Speaker demands order as ‘spittle’ comment sets emotions aflame
FROM LEFT: MINISTER OF FINANCE, Camillo Gonsalves, SENATOR Israel Bruce and THE SPEAKER OF the House, Rochelle Forde

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GOVERNMENT SENATOR, Julian Francis has urged the opposition members in Parliament to set the example at the top when it comes to getting vaccinated.

“The Parliament is not what the Parliament used to be,” the Minister for Urban Development, Energy, Airports, Seaports, Grenadines Affairs and Local Government said as he began his contribution to the debate on the 2022 Estimates on Monday, December 13.

The veteran senator said he likes a robust Parliament but remarked: “ When I see the leaders are not setting the right example, we therefore in the Parliament cannot enjoy…”.

He acknowledged that the rights of each member of Parliament is to speak in Parliament, “that’s what you’re here for”, but COVID-19 is something that has to be lived with.

“And I am really surprised that after two years that only two members of the Opposition are duly qualified to speak from their seats – being fully vaccinated,” Francis commented.

All members on the Government side of the House are permitted to speak from their seats, as per the COVID-19 protocols in place in the House of Assembly having provided proof of being fully vaccinated. However, those who are unvaccinated or have not declared their status must speak from behind a booth.

“The protocols are the protocols. I love to party, I love to go to lime, river cooks and so on… funerals, I used to enjoy it. But Madam Speaker I have not been to a funeral since June of 2020,” he disclosed.

Francis said he now extends his condolences via the telephone whether it be family or friends.

“So I want to urge the other members, elected and nominated. Let us take this thing seriously, let us set the example at the top.”
Francis said a lot of people look forward to the proceedings in Parliament,“…it’s the highest body of the land, and I believe if we sit here all of us should set the example by getting vaccinated.”

This statement was greeted by pounding on the desks in a show of support from the government benches.

Francis referenced the position of the late Sir James Mitchell, founder of the New Democratic Party (NDP) who was a strong proponent for vaccination.

He “left that as almost his last public statement to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Francis stated.

“He left that message to us and I am seeing members of his party in this Honourable House, four days before we come back here to view him in this Parliament, continue to be unvaccinated.

“I guarantee you that if all members of this Parliament were to stand up and say that we are all vaccinated, your constituents would have a different attitude towards the vaccination,” Francis charged.

During the debate this week the most heated occasion arose from a comment made by a government minister and directed to someone on the opposition benches.

“Please do not shower me with your unvaccinated spittle…so just wait and let me talk,” Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves said as he made closing statements on the 2022 Estimates.

This portion of events has since been removed from the live recordings of the House but is making the rounds on social media.

In response, a masked senator Israel Bruce rose declaring, “you better learn your place”.

The Speaker of the House, Rochelle Forde, on her feet and seeking to establish order repeatedly addressed the “Honourable member”, but was not immediately heeded as Bruce continued with, “Madame Speaker this House has standing orders you know.”

In the background, Bruce could later be heard saying, “You think you own St Vincent?”

Asked again to take his seat, the opposition senator continued: “you can’t talk to me as you feel like.”

The camera was on the Speaker of the House at that point but when it panned to the opposition senator his mask had become dislodged below his nose.

Someone could be heard in the background telling him to pull up his mask, to which Bruce challenged them to come and “you can pull it up.”

The Speaker, still attempting to bring order to the House reminded parliamentarians :“Honourable members I am on my feet and I demand to be heard in silence. We will not descend into those realms. There is lively debate, and then there is taking this House into a level of indignity that I will not tolerate”.