I was gratified that my attempt at education and elucidation, articulated in my observation, “The Myth of Independence,” has elicited a response, albeit not the one for which I would have hoped. Still, I welcome the chance to reply to the anonymous writer of Monday’s guest observation, “‘Hello!’ from the Land of Oz.”
For the purpose of information, the Speaker of the House is not appointed by the prime minister. If the writer had taken the time to read the Constitution and the Standing Orders, s/he would have known that the Speaker is elected and how that election is conducted.
In 2004, the Prime Minister and the then Leader of the Opposition agreed on my nomination, and so, unopposed, I was duly confirmed by the House. In 2009, when there were two nominees, I won that election by majority vote.
Further, any “special privileges” that I either hold or dispense are articulated in the Standing Orders; not conferred by the prime minister. Hence, neither partisanship nor puppetry is required – or tendered – to settle accounts. It is these enshrined privileges that allow me the freedom to consult, caucus with, and advise both the Leader of Government Business and the Leader of the Opposition, as I often do.
Now, on to correction: In my observation I expressed no “outrage” at any senator for voting his/her conscience; rather, I attempted to prove that senators are, indeed, appointed to represent “interests” other than their own – by quoting the Constitution – the opinions of learned professors notwithstanding. And as POWA’s public relations officer, I can also assert that no mockery was ever made of any dissenting senator’s contribution. Hence, I can only interpret the writer’s response – his/her identification of two specific senators – as the traditional “fling a stone in a pig pen and the one that squeals… .”
Where the writer gets it right is in the assertion that “Parliament is the only place designated by our constitution for debating and making our laws in the presence, sight and hearing of the populace at large.” That is why I was shocked to read in the paper, just last week, that a certain senator was “surprised” that the contentious CIP Bill had been returned to the Lower House without recommendations/amendments and that he held the Leader of Government Business in the Senate responsible for not compiling and transmitting the objections.
The time and place for such corrective action is during the Committee Stage, and it is a collaborative exercise to be undertaken by the whole House; not by a single senator at his own discretion. The Standing Orders are clear about that procedure; they are not speculative about the role of senators as prosecuting lawyers.
Finally, I echo the closing paragraph of the writer’s prayer, “May you (God) continue to bless the Nation of Antigua and Barbuda,” and since I am no cowardly lion in the Land of Oz, I am pleased to sign: