Members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition had previously expressed their hope that the bill they proposed would have been debated during that sitting of parliament and in preparation, it drafted the bill and forwarded to the Clerk of the House.
Word soon circulated, however, that the bill was not included on the order paper and conversations which this media house had with members of the Opposition suggested that attempts would be made to have the Order Paper amended to have the Integrity in Public Life Legislation included.
Shortly after Parliament commenced (28th April), Opposition Senator Vincent Byron attempted request that bill be included on the order paper which was when the Speaker of the House, Curtis Martin, addressed the issue.
He explained that having received a copy of the draft legislation, the Speaker’s Office, obtained advice and guidance and has ruled that the drafting of the bill is not in compliance with the Standing Orders of the House. He indicated specifically that the bill had not complied with the provisions of section 20 of the National Assembly Elections Act, Cap. 2.01, the procedure relating to the drafting of such Bills and the constitutional requirement stipulated in Standing Order 54.
“Honourable Members, the Chair has the clear authority not to allow this motion which has not received royal recommendation from His Excellency, The Governor General via a Fiat to proceed at this time and sitting of the Honourable House. Therefore, Hon. Leader of the Opposition, the Chair wishes to advise that after carefully reading the contents of the drafted Integrity in Public Life Bill, 2011 and the Standing Orders of this Honourable House that you would not be allowed to move forward with this motion until full compliance is met in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House as set out earlier.”
Describing the day as a defining moment as St. Kitts and Nevis embarks on new developments since he assumed the role of Speaker, Mr. Martin said he duly recognizes the submission of a Private Member’s Bill captioned – The Integrity in Public Life Bill, 2011 on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition to the Office of Clerk of the National Assembly dated 18th April 2011 but received at 11.54am on 19th April 2011.
“The Chair must advise from the outset of these remarks that submissions of Bills on either side of the aisle are indeed necessary, mature and welcome by the Chair and by no means of less importance by the Public we continue to serve from this august Chamber.”
He noted, however that Section 42 of the Constitution “makes provision for the mode of exercise of legislative power. The power to make laws, which is vested in Parliament, is exercised by Bills passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the Governor-General. The Constitution of Saint Christopher and Nevis, the National Assembly Elections Act, and the Standing Orders of the National Assembly do contain provisions that govern both the introduction and the passage of the Bills of the National Assembly.”
An invitation was extended to the Leader of the Opposition to consult as soon as possible with the Leader of Government Business and Attorney General to deal with issues relating to the short comings of the draft legislation.
“By so doing, it can be duly introduced, read and passed at the next best convenient sitting,” said Mr. Martin, who added: “The Chair is also mindful that this may be seen as an obstruction to the introduction and eventual passage of this piece of hallmark legislation. However, the Chair wishes to make it pellucidly clear that it has an obligation to make decisions based on the rules and standing orders of the National Assembly. Once, all requirements are met as expressed by the standing orders then the Chair will be duty bound to proceed on this Bill.”