BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JUNE 17TH 2017 –Opposition Member of Parliament in St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Marcella Liburd hopes next week’s 42nd Regional Conference of the Caribbean, the Americas and the Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in St. Kitts can help to iron out several concerns about the rulings of the Speaker of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly, Hon. Michael Perkins.
Opposition parliamentarians representing the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) for two and a half years have accused Perkins as Deputy Speaker and now as Speaker of “stifling of democracy” in the lawmaking body.
“The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is to enhance and promote parliamentary democracy. It is very ironic that the CPA is coming to a place where that is least practice,” said Liburd, the Parliamentary Representative for St. Christopher 2 (Central Basseterre).
“The Speaker has taken the view that because he is in charge of the House, he can do whatever he likes. No one can tell him anything and so he makes up rules and when they are made they are made up they are applied only to one side – the opposition benches. He is extremely biased in his rulings and it is evident that he just does not care. He is clearly there to support the Government,” said Liburd, a former deputy speaker and speaker during Freedom 106.5 FM Issues programme on Friday.
Ms. Liburd made reference to a presentation this week by Leader of the Opposition, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas on legislation to increase penalties for gun-related offences and which gave more power to magistrates.
“When Dr. Douglas expressed (public) concern that two of the sisters of the Prime Minister (Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris) are Magistrates, – 50 percent of the magistracy – and it is equally well-known that it is pure politics in his Team Unity Government, it is kitchen table justice that is being meted out and people are very unhappy with it, Dr. Harris jumped up and said there is a rule which says that members cannot refer to Registrars and Magistrates.”
“There is no such rule. The rule only applies to Judges of the OECS Supreme Court. But the Speaker gets up and says that Dr. Douglas cannot make reference that two sisters of the prime minister are magistrates. Then the Speaker says he will add “magistrates” to the section about judges,” she pointed out.
“That was to effectively shut down any reference to the concerns of the general public,” said Ms. Liburd. “How can the Speaker say he is exercising his discretion when there is a rule?”
She also referred to a presentation by MP for St. Christopher 3 (West Basseterre), Hon. Konris Maynard, who during his presentation on the crime bill, made reference to the recent arrest of a Customs Officer who was charged with the alleged importation of illegal firearms and Prime Minister Harris, who is also Minister of Finance responsible for the Customs and Minister of National Secularity with responsibility for border security, has never made a comment on the issue.
“In making his presentation, (opposition) Sen. Nigel Carty in a side remark said ‘even if it is your relatives.’ The Speaker immediately jumped up and ordered MP Maynard to sit and stated he heard the comment by Sen. Carty, ruled Carty was out of order and directed that he withdraw that comment.
In January the opposition walk-out of the Assembly and accused Speaker Perkins, of displaying “gross, flagrant, and unjust conduct in the parliament” and of holding himself as judge, jury, and executioner when he refused to allow debate on a Motion of No Confidence filed by the parliamentary opposition against him.
The Motion was delivered to the Clerk of the National Assembly on the 13th December, 2016 during the debate of the National Budget.
During the January 2017 sitting, instead of the Speaker excusing himself from the chair and allowing Deputy Speaker, Senator Akilah Byron, to hear the Motion, which was not on the Order Paper, declared he was dismissing it.
The St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party declared that the actions of the Speaker and the government present a clear and present danger to the federation’s democracy and the traditional democratic practices of St Kitts and Nevis.
The theme of the CPA Conference next week is “Enhancing Democracy through the Use of the Parliamentary System and the Media.”
The CPA “connects, develops, promotes and supports parliamentarians and their staff to identify benchmarks of good governance and the implementation of the enduring values of the Commonwealth.”
Akbar Khan, CPA Secretary General, is scheduled to attend the meeting with representations from 14 parliamentary branches.
Nations who have confirmed their attendance include Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nevis Island, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
Observers will attend from the Jersey legislature from the British Isles, the Cameroon legislature from the African region and the Yukon legislature from the Canada region.