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Opposition boycotts Parliament

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The Prime Minister was in his element as he lashed out at the Opposition when he wrapped up the 2008 budget debate in Parliament on Monday. One catch: the Opposition wasn’t there.{{more}}

The New Democratic Party boycotted the last day of sitting of Parliament for the year, protesting what they consider to be unfair, lopsided rulings, particularly in relation to Points of Order, by the Speaker of the House.

As he rebutted the points made by the members of the Opposition during their budget presentations, the Prime Minister belted out line after line of political insults, with a full strangers’ gallery attentively listening, but with the Opposition of which he spoke no where in sight.

Why?

Speaker of the House, Hendrickson Alexander indicated that he had that morning received a letter of protest from by Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.

“Over the last few years, we in the Parliamentary Opposition have been concerned that almost all rulings in the House go against the Opposition, particularly in relation to points of order,” the letter states.

According to Eustace, the problem is compounded because Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has increasingly interrupted the presentation of opposition members with “many tedious and sometimes rather frivolous interruptions on points of order and requests to give way.”

Last week Thursday, while Opposition Senator Daniel Cummings was making his presentation on the budget debate, Deputy Speaker of the House, Government Senator Rochelle Forde ruled against him, after Dr Gonsalves raised an objection to his line of presentation.

Cummings was at the time making reference to the Ministry of Transport and Works’ status of 2007 result indicators, where, among other things, they were projecting to complete electrical inspections of 75% of state owned buildings in 2007, but had done none.

Cummings wanted to know why, and was delving into the matter when Dr Gonsalves objected under Rule 62 (3) of the House, on the grounds that he (Cummings) could not make a reference to some specifics in the Estimates.

According to Eustace, the Deputy Speaker was wrong to rule in agreement with Dr Gonsalves.

He suggested that Rule 62 (3) was being misused in that instance and has called for a full review, “the necessary corrections for the record”, and an apology to Senator Cummings.

“Therefore, as a mark of protest, the Opposition will take no further part in the debate on this budget,” the letter states.

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on the matter, the Opposition Leader said that his party is prepared to take a harder line against what they consider to be very unfair treatment being dished out to them in the House of Assembly.

“Too many things go against us, and we don’t understand why they go against us,” Eustace said.

Stopping just short of saying that he had no confidence in the Speaker of the House, Eustace said that he also believes that his party’s two Senators, Daniel Cummings and St Clair Leacock, have been targeted for mistreatment in the House.

Eustace said that while he will not resort to any open disrespect of the Speaker, he will ensure that fitting forms of protest are launched to show his party’s dissatisfaction.

“We have serious concerns about what is happening,” Eustace said.

The Opposition New Democratic Party has five representatives in the 21 seat Assembly; three elected parliamentarians, and two Senators.

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