By Alister Thomas
I have never done Latin. In fact, Latin was never taught at any of the schools I attended. Neither Moravian, St. John’s Boys, Villa Primary or Princess Margaret School (PMS) Schools.
But somehow the Latin words “coniuratio” (PLOT) and “conjuratio” (PLOT) have been imposed on my mind, as I reflect on what seems to me and also to a large percentage of the public that the treatment of the opposition and independent members of the House of Representatives by the SPEAKER, Sir. Gerald Watts KC, seems purposefully and intentionally biased and partial.
Moreover, remarks directed to the opposition and independent members by the Speaker of the House and members of the government side have been condescending, insulting and demeaning. And I say this with understanding and acknowledgement of the tradition of cut and trust and the bantering which is a part of the culture that comes with Parliamentary and Senate sittings and debates.
But what has been happening and allowed to happen by the current Speaker of the House invites a Deja vu, of a reaction of some festering old grudge dating back in time to a general election debacle. Meanwhile, the member from St John’s City West, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, and the members of the government side are permitted to get away with the damndest and lowest gutter sniping in the sitting of the Lower House of Parliament.
Before I proceed any further, permit me to quote from what is often referred to as the Parliamentary Bible, especially by the current Speaker of the House, Sir: Gerald Watts KC. Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice 12th Edition, on page 234 states “The chief characteristics attaching to the Office of Speaker in the House of Commons are authority and IMPARTIALITY.”
For this occasion, I will use the reference and meaning of the word “IMPARTIALITY” from the Oxford language. “Equal treatment of all rivals or disputants: fairness. Simply put, “not partial or biased: treating or affecting all equally. Impartiality. If we are to give credence to Erskine May’s parliamentary practice as it pertains to the Speaker of the House we would have to agree that as a consequence of what has been taking place in Parliament that we would have no alternative but to burn all our copies of Mr. May’s Parliamentary Practice.
Mr. Pringle, Leader of the Opposition, and the member of All Saints East and St Luke and Trevor Walker, the member for Barbuda, have both endured the experiences of Shadrach, Meshach, as they were subjected to the Speaker’s parliamentary fire between 2018 and 2023. Only the 2 of them. And they alone were constantly served up the main courses of biasness and impartiality. Not one of the 15 members from the government benches was served the appetizer of biasness and impartiality.
For some reason, the old adage of “Wet you hand and wait fu awe” appeared to have been rehearsed before this new sitting of the House of Representatives. There is yet another adage that comes to mind. “If it looks like a fish, smells like a fish, swims like a fish, it’s most likely a fish.” We thought the worst of this nauseating bias and impartiality coming from the Speaker’s Chair would have died a natural death in the last sitting of Parliament. Seeing that the government side sits uneasily with a one (1) seat majority razor-thin edge in Parliament of 9-8 while the combined opposition enjoys the overall popular majority vote.
If we had any doubt that Parliament has become a political target range for members of the opposition to be targeted with bias and impartiality, the recent episode between the Speaker and Asot Michel in Parliament bears it out. It seems that Asot Michael continues to be the grudge target, with no protection of the Speaker from deliberate provocation – provocation which seems designed to derive an intended result.
Consider the words of the learned attorney Hugh Marshall Jr, as he sets out the substantive case, pointing out the bias and impartiality on the part of the Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watts KC against his client, Asot Michael.
Please grasp the cogency of his opening argument: Lucid, unequivocal, and pellucid.
“On the evening of 18th May 2023, the House, at your prompting and purporting to act pursuant to Standing Orders (SO) made under s57 of the Constitution, voted to suspend our Client for three (3) sittings. Having taken full instructions, which include a review of the audio and visual recording of the events, we are satisfied that the purported suspension of our Client was unlawful for the following reasons, namely:
- the House had no power to make standing orders providing for the suspension of a member and SO 50(7) was, accordingly, unconstitutional, null and void.
2) even if the House did have the power to make rules providing for the suspension of a member, it had no power to make rules providing for the suspension of a member for three (3) or more sittings and SO 50(8) was, accordingly, unconstitutional, null and void;
3) the suspension was imposed for the improper purpose of punishing our Client and was not reasonably required for the regulation of the affairs and/or proceedings of the House; and
4) the suspension was not effected in accordance with the mandatory procedural steps specified by SO 50(7).
The learned Attorney is not done yet. Let him set out the factual and legal position of his client:
“On the evening of 18th May 2023, during the address of the Member for St. John’s City South on the amendment to the Criminal Prosecutions Service (Amendment) Bill, he made disparaging remarks about our Client cumulating in words “You are going to regret it.” At the same time, the Member for St. John’s City West chimed in with “UK Crime Agency” as cross talk. These words appear to be intended as a threat of criminal proceedings against our Client and indeed were reasonably taken by him as such. This all occurred after you had advised the House that cross-talk would not be tolerated and any member who engaged in cross-talk would be asked to leave. You said nothing to either Member for St. John’s City South or City West. Upon our Client’s response, and in your wisdom, you found it fit to request him and him alone to leave the Chamber. You further requested the Sergeant at Arms to remove our Client from the House. Our Client protested at the biased manner in which you had acted. Our Client was in the process of leaving the Chamber (complying with your request) and thereby not posing any threat to the proceedings of the House when you then requested the Sergeant at Arms not to carry out your orders of removal and then proceeded to name him.”
This unvarnished and provocative bias and impartiality makes a mockery and mimicry of the elected members of Parliament, citizenry, voters, and the Parliamentary Bible, Erskine May. I think it was the Greet Philosopher Aristotle who said, “The Rule of Law is a principle that all people and organizations within a country, state, or community are held accountable to the same set of Laws.” Enough said.