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Make better use of parliamentary time

Make better use of parliamentary time


Last Thursday, The House of Assembly established what was possibly a record for a non-Budget parliamentary session, ending well into Friday morning. It is true that a Supplementary Appropriations Bill was one of the items on the agenda, but most parliamentarians are by now seasoned in such affairs since the majority of them have been in Parliament for more than one term.

It got to the stage where it was obvious that several MPs were flagging in the interest shown and one could sense the understandable desire to get home. However, it was a problem created by them.

What is worse, as far as the public is concerned, was that given the marathon session, most Vincentians would not have followed the live debate.

One of the positive early actions of the Gonsalves administration has been to ensure that all sessions of parliament get live coverage, in contrast to its predecessor which only permitted live broadcast of the Budget debate. But stretching the parliamentary session beyond midnight obviously nullifies this possible benefit.

Now, one can argue that the session could have been adjourned and resumed the following day, but that may not even have been necessary, for essentially the crux of the matter lies in time-management in general and the efficient use of precious parliamentary time in particular. The failure to address these essentials leads to a disproportionate amount of time being spent on non-essential items, in some cases even trivial ones, and more crucial matters either being rushed or dragged out into hours when much public interest has been exhausted.

Concerns have been expressed publicly about the degree to which our Parliamentarians expend time and effort on relatively minor issues. We are not saying that the expression of condolences to relatives of the recent deceased or congratulatory remarks on some outstanding achievement, cannot find space on the Parliamentary agenda, but we have to be balanced and judicial about it. Frankly speaking, many of our MPs end up playing petty politics and wasting valuable time.

The matter has been raised in Parliament by both the Speaker and the Leader of the House, but the practice persists. Do we have to have all this detail about which Parliamentarian was a friend of the family and all that crap, nor is every positive action deserving of Parliamentary praise? If anything, our Parliamentarians should make last Thursday’s post-midnight session into a watershed going forward.

It is time to insist that there is more efficient use of parliamentary time and that parliamentarians make effective use of the privilege they have in addressing the entire nation, and indeed potentially the world. The endless griping, cross-talk and sometimes behaviour bordering on gutter-politics do not do the image of our parliament or nation any good.

Yes, keep the debate lively and competitive, but please demonstrate maturity and the ability to rise above pettiness and petty politics to engage in serious constructive discussion and debate which will uplift the nation and enhance our civilisation.