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Opposition walks out of House again

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Participation by the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in the 2018 Budget debate is still left to be seen.

On Monday, when Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves got up in the House of Assembly to deliver the 2018 Budget address, the Opposition Members of Parliament, for the third time in one week, walked out of the House of Assembly.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT last night, said it is important that the NDP take a stance on the blockage of their ‘No Confidence motion,’ as it is their constitutional right to have this motion heard.

He said that if a motion of no confidence succeeds, the consequence is the Prime Minister must resign within three days, or he must dissolve Parliament within that time-frame, or else the Governor General can remove him.

“So, it means, you can change the Government by a vote of no confidence; that is how serious it is. And when the Government says that you are not permitted to bring a motion of no confidence, that is changing a very, very important aspect of our democratic system and I think it needs to be explained to people,” Friday said.

The Opposition Leader said the Government does not even know if they have the right to present the Budget because they never allowed the motion of no confidence to be debated.

“Suppose the motion of no confidence had carried on Wednesday? The Government would have fallen; they would not have been able to bring a budget.”

Friday said the Government cannot say they would have won the motion of no confidence had it been put to the vote, because if they knew they were going to win, they would have allowed the motion to go forward.

The Leader of the Opposition said any decision on them debating the 2018 Budget will be made on an ongoing basis.

“It is a political decision and when we know we have made our point, we would make different decisions. We are not boycotting Parliament because we want to stay out of Parliament and not do our jobs; we are doing it to highlight the important constitutional abrogation that took place when the Speaker and Gonsalves, the Government side, prevented the motion from being argued.

He said the Opposition cannot go to Parliament as if it is business as usual, knowing that their no confidence motion was not allowed to be debated a few days earlier, and that motion could have forced the Government down.

“The Government is illegitimate, because they did not go through the test of the motion and pass it. The Government’s fear cannot be sufficient reason for us to be denied a constitutional right,” Friday stated.

He said the NDP’s decision to walk out of Parliament has nothing to do with scoring political points, but how to be effective representatives of the people.

“…Sometimes you have to participate or not participate. Things are not normal in St Vincent. We will go back to Parliament when we think it is alright to do so,” Friday said.

He said that the NPD does not take lightly the Budget debate, so when they decide to stay out, persons must know it is for an important reason.

“We went in last year and debated it thoroughly and did a good job and we are prepared to debate again, but we are defending our democracy,” said the Opposition Leader.  

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