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Representative Leacock almost loses chance to debate

Representative Leacock almost loses chance to debate


Parliamentary representative for Central Kingstown St Claire Leacock found himself in hot water with the Speaker of the House Hendrick Alexander last week,{{more}} causing him to almost lose his chance to debate the 2012 budget estimates.

Leacock, however, was defended by his constituency neighbour and New Democratic Party (NDP) colleague, West Kingstown’s Daniel Cummings, as well as Minister of Tourism Saboto Caesar, parliamentary representative for South Central Windward, who asked the Speaker to allow Leacock to continue his contribution to the debate.

The drama began about seven minutes into Leacock’s allotted 45-minute presentation, on Friday, January 13, the last day of the debate.

Leacock, speaking about an absence of growth in the economy in 2011, said that in response to a claim by the Leader of the Opposition that the Prime Minister had admitted to no growth in 2011, said that he (the Prime Minister) said he only said that to get money from the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility (RCF).

“Well that has to be a tongue-in-cheek statement, because you cannot as a prime minister say that you are being untruthful with your representation to an international body to the extent …”

The Speaker interrupted, just as Minister of Transport and Works Senator Julian Francis rose on a point of order. Francis said he did not get the interpretation that the Prime Minister said he was fooling the IMF.

This was agreed to by the Speaker, who asked Leacock to withdraw a statement, which, according to the Speaker was a misinterpretation of facts and therefore misleading.

“…. I am saying, because of that, as Speaker of the House, I am asking you to withdraw that statement… and if you are going to disobey my advice as Speaker, then there is no way you should be able to continue your debate.”

Leacock, who initially refused to withdraw his statement, said that he would restate his position, but not withdraw the original point he made.

Restating, Leacock said: “The Honorable Prime Minister in response … to the charge, that he had admitted that there was four years of negative growth, indicated that his reference was solely directed towards acquiring the RCF Funds,… and I leave my statement.”

“I want the earlier statement withdrawn,” the Speaker declared.

Leacock: “…I have restated my position, and replaced the other position.”

Speaker: “No. I want you to say that you have withdrawn your earlier statement.”

Leacock: “Which is?”

Speaker: “The one that said that he said he fooled the IMF.”

Leacock: “Well, he did not use the language he fooled them.”

Speaker: “Well, I want that withdrawn”

Leacock: “….Well, I have addressed that….”

Speaker: “Honorable member listen, I am not in the best of situations today… so I am please asking for cooperation; you withdraw or you sit down. If you don’t do it, I will call the Honorable Nigel Stephenson to debate. I am not here this morning for fooling around.”

Leacock: “I am not fooling around, I remove the statement as you request… I said I have removed the statement.

I said I have removed the statement.”

Speaker: “Honorable member would you please take your seat…. I said I want a total statement.”

Leacock: “That is what I said. I said I have withdrawn the statement.”

Speaker: “Please sit down. Honorable Nigel Stephenson I will now acknowledge you at this time.”

At this point, Cummings rose to speak on behalf of his colleague, claiming that Leacock had done what was required of him.

Cummings: “My honorable colleague has indicated categorically that he has both clarified the statement and in accordance with your request, he has withdrawn the previous statement.”

Speaker: “I have not heard that!”

Cummings: “Mr. Speaker it has been repeated by my colleague a few minutes ago that he has withdrawn the statement…. I heard my colleague said he has withdrawn the statement.”

Speaker: “I told your colleague what I want to hear….”

Following the discussion between Alexander and Cummings, Caesar rose to contribute to the debate within the debate:

Caesar: “Mr. Speaker … I was following… and during the crosstalk, and all of us make mistake from time to time, but I did hear him say that he withdraw, but I mean I am here this morning and I would like to hear the honorable member; and if he may just get up and just make it clear that he withdraw the statement which he made … ”

Speaker: “…. I have to be satisfied with the ‘withdrawn’; and I am not satisfied with what he has said. That is all I am saying. And the Honorable member for West Kingstown getting up here and making the statement he made does not convince me. I know what I want and what I am expecting, and if he is not going to do it, I am not gong to allow him to continue, and this is done without any prejudice.”

Leacock, “Minister Saboto Caesar is absolutely correct, and I think I said so about three times; I have withdrawn the statement….”

With this, Leacock was then allowed by Alexander to continue his contribution without losing anytime.

Leacock, during his remaining time, described the 2012 budget as ‘precious little’ for the ordinary man and woman.

He used the opportunity to propose the constituency development fund, which he says would create better results on the national level.

“More people will share a larger piece of the pie…. National wealth would be more equitably distributed…. More people will have the opportunity to participate in contributing to production at all levels and…. We will broaden the number of people who own the wealth in the country.” (JJ)