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Confusion in Parliament

Confusion in  Parliament


The title of this editorial is taken from the name given by Queen’s Counsel Parnel Campbell to his television programme, The Law and You # 891, which was broadcast on SVG TV last night. We take Campbell’s description as our own, because we think it appropriate in the circumstances.

The learned attorney dedicated most of last night’s programme to discussing the ‘No Confidence’ motion under consideration in Parliament last week, and which has been the topic of much debate here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The ongoing discussion does not surround the content of the ‘No Confidence’ motion, or even its alter ego, the ‘Confidence’ motion, but rather the interpretation of Section 47 of the Constitution, which deals with No Confidence motions, and how the Standing Orders, Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice and Roberts Rules of Order should be interpreted in relation to motions and amendments to motions.

Although at times confusing, because of the different interpretations proffered by our learned Parliamentarians, last week’s debate had great entertainment value and provided useful education on Parliamentary procedure. Those who were paying attention would also have picked up tips on political strategy and the importance of always having a ‘Plan B’ should ‘Plan A’ not go as expected.

The Speaker, however, seems to have been among the confused, as one day after the sitting of Parliament, he said he erred in his decision to allow an amendment to the motion (see story on page 20). Mr Campbell, in his presentation last night, disagreed with the Speaker, saying that he was right in the first place.

But out of this “confusion” has come good, as it has spawned a high level of public discussion on Section 47 of the Constitution and also on how amendments to motions, including ‘No Confidence’ motions should be handled.

In addition to Mr Campbell’s input in the special one-hour edition of his television programme last night, at least one radio call in programme over the weekend was dedicated to these topics, with good participation and input from members of the public. As a bonus, regional constitutional expert Dr Francis Alexis QC, the author of the book “Changing Caribbean Constitutions” has written an opinion piece on the matter, which is published on pages 10, 11 and 12 of today’s SEARCHLIGHT.

If the ‘confusion’ in last week’s Parliament leads to enlightenment of the public, including our Parliamentarians, all may not have been lost.