Astaphan: No Confidence Motion Against PM Harris NOT DEBATED; Accuses Speaker Perkins of Depriving Opposition of “Right to Speak”

National Assembly Chambers
National Assembly Chambers

Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 10, 2019 – Operation Rescue Dwyer Astaphan although welcoming the recent debate on the opposition’s Motion of No Confidence (MONC) in Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said it should not have been held on Christmas Eve and accused Speaker Michael Perkins of misinterpreting a Rule 41 (2) resulting in the governing majority prematurely ending the debate and depriving the parliamentary opposition of their “right to speak.”
“In my opinion, it ought not to have been scheduled for Christmas Eve, there were too many other things happening,” said Astaphan on his weekly radio programme which resumed Tuesday after a respite due to the Christmas and Carnival celebrations.
Astaphan took issue with the conduct of Speaker Michael Perkins, who has been repeatedly accused of shutting down the parliamentary opposition and stifling democracy in the lawmaking body.
Astaphan, a lawyer and a former three-term parliamentarian, told listeners that after Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, the Mover of the Motion, made his two-hour presentation “Mr. Brantley (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aviation) rose and spoke on the government side and then put a Motion before the House under Rule 41 to end the debate.”
“Now remember the purpose of the sitting is to have the debate, and after you have had the debate, even if the government side doesn’t want to make a contribution to the debate, they can sit quietly, wait until the other side have said what they have to say, it gets put to the vote, the Motion is defeated and everybody goes.,” said Astaphan, who quickly added: “That didn’t happen.”
He said the Government side which has the majority “relied on Rule 41 to prematurely terminate the debate, thereby depriving the Opposition of their Parliamentary right to make their contributions. Fail as they would to win the vote, this did not take away their right to speak and to say what they have to say on the Motion.”
Astaphan was of the opinion that scheduling of the debate by Speaker Perkins to start at 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve indicated “a plan.”
He opined: “If you have a Motion of No Confidence, the mover of the motion will make his/her presentation and then everybody else has a chance to speak, and when everybody else has spoken you reply to everyone and then you, as we say, “wind up”. This is the standard procedure for transacting Motions in the House. But there is one exception, which is brought up in Rule 41 (2).
“The Speaker, in my opinion has misinterpreted the word “conclude,” in fact, misinterpreted the whole sense of having the whole debate. The correct interpretation of this, in my respectful opinion, is that everybody gets a right to speak, the Mover can then give his or her Reply but seeing that it was a Motion of this nature, a government Minister can, after the Mover has given his Reply to the other contributions, a Minister of government has the right to conclude the discussion before the question is put, not the right to prematurely terminate the debate so that members of either side or both sides are deprived of the opportunity. But this is exactly what happened. It was prematurely stopped, in my view, in contravention of the Rules, and I respectfully suggest to those who are here on this public platform that the Speaker made a grave error in that particular matter.” Astaphan stated.
He added:” It was not given a chance to be fully debated, the Rules were not observed, you cannot say one person “speak” and then you wrap up, that means you are depriving people of the chance to be heard so you can’t say it was completely heard…The debate was not completed…You cannot be a judge in your own court. You cannot be in Court and you tell the judge “the Prosecutor can’t bring any more witnesses so it must stay right ether, let’s finish this case now” – it’s the same thing

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