ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Fireworks erupted in the Lower House yesterday, when each opposition Member of Parliament summarily walked out – protesting the Citizenship by Investment’s Bill’s re-introduction in the current session.
A contentious discourse and exercise ensued after member for St John’s Rural West Baldwin Spencer moved a motion in respect of the equally contentious Antigua & Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Act 2013.
A resolution, read by Spencer, asked that the Bill be returned to the Senate with a message that the House of Representatives “stands by its decision” and requesting senators “reconsider the rejection of the Bill” that was passed through the Lower House, but rejected in its entirety in Senate at committee.
The legislation was passed in Lower House on February 1 and rejected by government senators on February 13.
The policy will be sent back to the Senate with no changes, subsequent to the crucial “nay” vote.
During the session, MP for St John’s City West Gaston Browne stood on a point of order, objecting to the CIP Bill being relegated back to the Lower House, just weeks after being torpedoed in the Senate. He held the debate was in contravention of Standing Order 59 and the constitution.
“The Bill was sent to the House twice. It went to the Senate twice and no matter what word they use, whether it be rejection (or) withdrawal, it is still a rejection. The constitution is very clear that it cannot be brought back during this session,” Browne declared.
The opposition leader then called for Speaker of the House D Gisele Isaac, to “abort” the current sitting of parliament.
However, the Speaker refused, saying the motion can be debated, but the Bill would not be.
“The point of order is irrelevant, in that Standing Order 59 speaks to debating the Bill. There is no Bill before us for debate. There is a motion before us. The Bill will not be debated, cannot be debated and I will not allow it to be debated,” Isaac ruled.
Browne declined to further participate in “this illegality” and warned the matter would be making its way to the courts, before packing his belongings and exiting the parliament chamber.
MPs Lester Bird, Robin Yearwood, Asot Michael and Eustace Lake followed suit, without making any contribution on the matter.
MP for St John’s City South Steadroy Benjamin stood in agreement with his leader and attempted to convince the Speaker of the correctness of their interpretation.
Meanwhile, the last man standing, St Mary’s North MP, Molwyn Joseph, made a valiant attempt to dissuade the Speaker from her course of action.
After the proceedings, Spencer said the CIP Bill would make its way to Senate “within the next two weeks or sooner”, but said he had no specific date.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)