Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 23, 2017(SKNIS): Anthony Michael Perkins had hardly settled into his chair as Speaker of the National Assembly when he was told point blank by Opposition Parliamentarian, Honourable Konris Maynard, the newest and youngest Member of Parliament at that time, that he doesn’t have the support of the Opposition on the very same day he was elected as Speaker on June 30, 2016. Addressing the Parliament at the time, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, said that what Parliamentarian Maynard did was unheard of anywhere in the world.
Just shy of six months later, the Dr. Denzil Douglas-led Opposition filed a Motion of No Confidence in the Speaker of the National Assembly on December 13, 2016, citing bias. It was rejected by the Speaker, the Honourable Michael Perkins, as being Out of Order under Section 27(3) of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly of Saint Christopher and Nevis. A then infuriated Opposition stormed out of the Parliament after Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Douglas, was asked to withdraw for continuously interrupting the Speaker during his ruling.
But, Speaker Perkins in an exclusive interview with the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS) on January 20, 2017, hours after the raucous behaviour of the Opposition in the first Sitting of the Parliament for the New Year, said he was not daunted.
“As Speaker of this Parliament, I am satisfied in my heart that my decisions, my rulings, are fair, are transparent, they are in accordance with the rules. Once I’m satisfied to myself that that’s my position, I have no difficulty with anything that is being said, no difficulty at all, except that when I think they have gone overboard, when I think that anyone is violating the Standing Orders that I am duty bound to (uphold).
Responding to the conduct of the Opposition, Speaker Perkins said that they were Out of Order.
“They were Out of Order…as a matter of fact, all the interjections we had during my ruling were Out of Order because the ruling, when the Speaker is giving a ruling, it is equivalent to a high court judge giving his (her) ruling—no lawyer, no one can interrupt—it is Out of Order; it can be held in contempt of court—that’s also an option that is available to the Speaker, meaning if at any time the Speaker finds that a member is in contempt or does something that he considers to be contemptuous, a member can be brought up on charges of contempt,” he said.
“There is a means of dealing with that and I will go a step further because once the members walked out of Parliament today, just before they left, the behaviour itself which would be seen, it would be looked at, the records of the House would be studied, and if I’m of the view that the behaviour was contemptuous, I would take the necessary steps to deal with that accordingly,” he added.
In responding to accusations of bias, Speaker Perkins said that that is Out of Order.
“In Parliament, there are rulings made as we go along. If at any time, any particular ruling does not find favour with any Opposition member, that Opposition member, all he or she has to do is to ask for a review of the ruling but they must do so by what we call a substantive motion…if the Opposition can build a case in a series of errors on the part of the Speaker through substantive motions, clearly then the Speaker finds himself with questions hanging over his head and those questions can in my opinion amount to the Opposition making a case, well look, the Speaker is not doing a good job; we’ve shown that he is biased,” he said.
He said that based on what transpired in the House on January 20 “makes me think that it was an orchestrated attempt to bring disruption to the business of the House on this particular issue (Motion of No Confidence).”
Speaker Perkins said that he expected his role to be challenging but didn’t expect the level of disrespect shown towards him.
“I must be completely honest and say what has taken me by surprise, and I’m being frank and honest here, is the unparliamentary type of behaviour and disrespect that has been shown to the Speaker by some members of the House…never before in my wildest dreams would I have expected members to openly challenge the Speaker in this manner—rude, disrespectful, loud. I can’t categorize it any other way but in using such terms.