Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 24, 2017(SKNIS): A Motion of No Confidence in the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable Anthony Michael Perkins, filed and subsequently submitted on December 13, 2016, by Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, with reference to the proceedings of Parliament even before the Dr. Harris-led Team Unity Administration commenced its first Sitting of Parliament in May 2015, has been termed by Leader of Government Business in the House, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton, as one that must have been drafted by “some juvenile mind, some lightweight.”
In a ruling in the first Sitting of the National Assembly for 2017, on January 20, Speaker Perkins outlined reasons why the Motion of No Confidence was “Out of Order” and could not be debated because of several inaccuracies and violations to Standing Order Section 27(3) of the National Assembly of Saint Christopher and Nevis.
The Honourable Eugene Hamilton says that he fully corroborates the ruling of Speaker Perkins. He has outlined several reasons in support of his position, saying that the Motion was “fraught with inaccuracies.”
“I think the Speaker was absolutely right. The Motion was Out of Order and the Motion had no right to reach the Parliament in the state that it was in. I think that the Speaker conducted himself properly in giving a ruling and pointing to the various sections which it violates and none of them can dispute that, none of them can dispute that,” Minister Hamilton said in an exclusive interview with the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service on January 20 post Parliament.
The Leader of Government Business in the House chided the Opposition for being very ignorant of the Rules of the House.
“I hold a view that the Opposition wanted to get out of this Motion of No Confidence. I really don’t believe they wanted this Motion of No Confidence heard and that they came today to cause confusion,” he said. “I sum it up this way. The problem I see all of them facing is this: during the time they were in office, they’ve never paid attention to the rules of Parliament and even someone like the Honourable Marcella Liburd, who used to be a Speaker of the Parliament, she too seems to be ignorant of the rules and that is the challenge that they have. The rules are kind of foreign to them.”
Honourable Hamilton said that the Motion has 14 recitals and four prayers and he refers to them in his treatise on the Motion.
The first thing he said is that the Motion is improperly captioned, meaning that it simply states “Motion of No Confidence in the Speaker of the National Assembly” and is not specific to which National Assembly.
The second point, he said, is that within the first recital it reads “The Office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are enshrined in the Constitution of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.” I do not believe that Dr. Douglas wrote this, said Minister Hamilton, “when he knows that for 26 months they reduced the Parliament to a useless instrument over a Motion of No Confidence and for five years they denied the people of St. Kitts and Nevis and this Nation and this Parliament, a Deputy Speaker, and yet he comes with a resolution to say that it is enshrined in the Constitution—well didn’t he know that when he was denying us a Deputy Speaker for five years.”
The second recital, he says, speaks to authority and impartiality, stating “whereas the chief characteristics of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly are authority and impartiality…” “Well if you have authority, you exercise your authority. So if the Speaker has authority and exercises his authority, how do they then have contention with him exercising his authority,” Minister Hamilton stated.
He condemned those who go in public and impugn the character and actions of a Speaker.
“In other words, people are not supposed to go in public and speak about the actions of a Speaker. It can be punished. If you go to the Privileges Act of the Nation, there are ways to punish people who reflect on the conduct of the Speaker—so if you go out into the public and cast aspersions on the Speaker, they are punishable,” he said.
In another explanation, he said that recitals four and five impute improper motives to the Speaker.
“The Speaker, then a Deputy Speaker exercises his discretion in the Parliament debates to prevent the member…” “Now, that is improper motive. Once you impute improper motive, it violates 43(5) of the Rules of the House. In another section of the Motion it states: “The Speaker Michael Perkins has embarked on a course of conduct starting from the time he held office as Deputy Speaker that has given members of the House reasons to question his impartiality as a result of his targeting…” “You are accusing the Speaker of targeting; that is improper motive. The House can’t debate a Motion that imputes improper motive. It is as simple as that,” the Leader of Government Business said.
In another recital, that of nine, he said that it alleges “the conduct to date has culminated in the unprecedented and unmerited ruling of the Speaker, which resulted in the suspension of Nigel Carty.” Minister Hamilton said that Senator Carty was not suspended from the House but rather asked to withdraw, which is a difference.
“Now the word culminated means that that’s what they really wanted to talk about, Nigel Carty’s suspension. It had nothing to do with all that went on before. It is about Nigel Carty’s suspension—and that’s what they say, suspension, he was never suspended, he was asked to withdraw.”
According to Minister Hamilton another section of the Motion made reference to stifling freedom of expression when it should have correctly stated freedom of speech, the two being different.
The Leader of Government Business in the House said that he believes that Speaker Perkins was very lenient with members of the Opposition and that if it were him they would have all been named for what he termed “grossly out of order” and “gross misconduct.”
“No one is doing them anything; they are doing it to themselves. They are doing it to themselves in the Parliament by not understanding the rules and applying themselves accordingly to the rules. And, if I for one, if I were the Speaker today, all of them would be named,” he said.