MP claims attempts to muzzle opposition

By Glen Bart,

Opposition MPs leaving the National Assembly.

Basseterre, St. Kitts, 14th February, 2018 ( – Opposition Members of Parliament (MP) have accused House Speaker Michael Perkins, as well as the Government, of deliberate actions aimed at preventing them from speaking in parliament.

This accusation came after MP Konris Maynard was suspended from the National Assembly on Tuesday, 13th February, after House Speaker Michael Perkins deemed Maynard’s behaviour to be disrespectful.

Maynard, the Constituency #3 representative, was first ‘Named’, according to the parliamentary procedure, by an elected member of the Assembly, in this case the Leader of Parliamentary Business, Eugene Hamilton.

The Speaker then suspended Maynard for 10 days for disrespectful behaviour.

At the time, Maynard was objecting to the Speaker for not allowing two MPs on the opposition benches to speak, although, he said, they had indicated they wished to do so. From some accounts, a move had been made to end the debate on a Bill before the parliament.

The suspension of Maynard led to Leader of the Opposition Dr. Denzil Douglas, accompanied by Senator Nigel Carty, walking out of the National Assembly in protest against the Speaker and in support of his colleague MP, on the grounds that opposition members had been denied their constitutional right to speak in the National Assembly.

Opposition Leader Douglas claimed that there are deliberate actions being taken by the Speaker and MPs on the government benches to prevent opposition members from contributing to the legislative debates.

Douglas said on a radio program, “We feel very strongly that this is a deliberate effort on the part of the government not to have us heard in seriously criticising the government on matters that are fundamental, not only to the democracy of our country, but also placing our country on a strong economic and financial path for our future.”

The Opposition Leader also said, “This appears to be a clear indication that there is a concerted effort on the part of the government not to allow us to speak on critical issues in our parliament. The government is facilitated by the Hon. Speaker, Michael Perkins.”

The Opposition MPs also believe that their treatment in Parliament on Tuesday stemmed from their “robust… questioning” of the government’s plans and proposals.

Douglas stated, “Because we were robust in our questioning on those matters, we are now being thrown out of the parliament and also not allowed to speak. This cannot continue and the people of St. Kitts and Nevis must understand that this will not continue. It is going to create confusion in our country here in St. Kitts and Nevis.”

Meanwhile, according to statements made via social media, Maynard believes the Speaker’s decision is in error, and he plans to attend the next sitting of the National Assembly.

Maynard is quoted as saying, “I have not been officially suspended from the House before. The records will show that I’ve only been asked to withdraw.”

He continued, “I intend to iron my clothes early and attend the next parliament.”

Since the first sitting of the National Assembly in January 2018, there have been verbal clashes between the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition, in particular, a continuation of a trend that started in 2017.