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Speaker and MP accuse each other of lying

Speaker and MP accuse each other of lying


“It was a deliberate thing on the part of the Speaker and the Speaker told a big lie.”

These are the words of Senator Linton Lewis, who on August 4, was denied the opportunity to rise in Parliament to speak during the Obituaries section. In that sitting, Speaker of the House Hendrick Alexander {{more}}told Lewis that he could not rise because he did not seek prior notice to give obituaries.

“There is nothing in the rules that says so,” the senator told SEARCHLIGHT in a recent interview. “I have never been told that I have to do so. I have given obituaries in the past and I have never done so…never gave advance notice.”

Lewis added that August 4 was the first time that he was ever confronted on that matter.

“In the first place, even if someone is supposed to give advance notice and that person stands up to speak to give obituaries on someone who was important in the community and so on, why would you stop that person? You can say ‘Well listen, don’t forget in the future, you give advance notice, but go ahead’,” he said.

“I don’t fool around with those things. If I have been told that, either by my colleagues or by the Speaker in the past, I would have observed that practice, but there is nothing in the rules that requires advanced notice.”

However, when SEARCHLIGHT spoke with the Speaker of the House, he stated that the rule has been in effect for a number of years and that all members of parliament, including the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, would indicate when they intend to speak in the congratulatory remarks and obituaries sections.

Alexander further explained that the rule was introduced to avoid the confusion of everyone standing to speak in those areas.

“I, as Speaker, under rule 81.1, have the authority to set the programme of conduct, the way business is conducted in the house. That’s my authority and if there is no prior rule in the order paper…therefore it means that if something were to take place, I am the one who is responsible for saying how it should or should not be done,” he said.

According to the Speaker, there was an instance where he allowed Senator Vynnette Frederick to speak when she noted that she had forgotten to give prior notice and apologized.

Furthermore, Alexander expressed the opinion that Lewis had “an attitude of defiance; I would want to say why he did not want to or did not give prior notice.

“His excuse, I don’t accept it… I’m saying categorically, if he says that he does not know about the rule, I am saying he lie,” he said.

“I mean it’s strange that he belongs to a party where everyone else … on that side knew of the rule except him. Something has to be wrong. This is the case with the gentleman; he never knows anything or remembers anything. That’s the rule and I just applied the rule, that’s all.”

The Speaker added that everyone who spoke in Parliament on August 4 had sought prior notice.

Dr Godwin Friday, Opposition member for the Northern Grenadines, was one of those parliamentarians. In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT this week, Friday said that he was disappointed with Alexander’s decision. While he noted that the rule was introduced some time ago, the parliamentarian said that it is usually waived if someone forgets or did not get to see the Speaker before Parliament.

“It has happened to me sometimes, like if I forgot or didn’t get to see him before the Parliament. I would say Mr Speaker, I’m sorry …I would like to say something in congratulations or obituaries and ordinarily he would say yes,” Friday explained.

“That is unusual, to be honest with you…it’s his discretion. I didn’t agree with him (The Speaker) not allowing him (Lewis) to speak, but he makes the rules and we have to abide.”

Government senator Jomo Thomas also rose on that day to speak during the Obituaries. He told SEARCHLIGHT that he had given notice on the day before that he wanted to speak. Thomas added that giving advanced notice was a practice of the House.

“What happened in the House on Tuesday, it’s the first time I’ve seen it happen. I don’t know why Mr Lewis did not seek permission. In fact, I was rather taken aback by the whole thing. I know that when you want to speak, you have to indicate that you want to speak,” he said.