It was back in early December last year that Opposition Leader, Mark Brantley and three (3) other parliamentarians on the opposition benches of the National Assembly, filed with the Clerk of the parliament, the necessary papers for the motion to be heard. However, two months hence, and no effort has been made to allow the debate amongst elected members of the legislature.
Prime Minister Douglas has been adamant that he does not share the view being promoted by the opposition that the greatest of priority ought to be given to such a motion, over any other business before the house and this is the main point of disagreement between the two sides. On one side, the opposition wants urgent action to facilitate the motion; which, if successful, would bring a downfall to Dr. Douglas’ Administration. This, he certainly intends to avoid, and has stated so publicly in the media many times between December and February. However, for the government and the Prime Minister especially, there is no urgency in the matter when it is compared to other initiatives he wishes to pursue.
“I really don’t understand what is this song and dance about the Motion of No Confidence being brought immediately. I do not support it…in the sense that everything else in the government must be dropped for the Motion of No Confidence to be heard.”
In addition to the actions of the opposition parties, various business and religious groups in the country have also written to the Prime Minister, urging priority attention and action to facilitate the motion. However, Dr. Douglas is not budging. He is forceful in his stance that he wants the budget first, then, as he has previously stated, the motion could have its turn.
Despite that claim, others have argued that such a motion is of absolute importance and ought to take precedence over all other matters; because, as one politician has stated, it speaks to the fact that the sitting government may no longer command the support of the majority of the legislators, to run the affairs of state.
But Dr. Douglas insists, the “Motion will come. I am not the one to bring it; nobody ask me to bring it either. I am not the one to bring it; but I am a responsible Prime Minister and I lead a responsible government and so I will do whatever is necessary to lend support to the system, which has its procedures and processes, to ensure that the matter is brought to our parliament.” That is what the leader said while commenting on a letter he said he had received from the two top church organizations in the country. Their letter of Monday 4thFebruary, 2013, called on him to do what is necessary to have the motion debated.
He acknowledged that he has also obtained similar correspondence from the main private sector group in the country. They too, in their letter last week demanded urgent steps by the government to bring the motion to parliament.
But the four term leader of St. Kitts and Nevis also told his listeners “Let me make it clear that the Prime Minister of the country, the Government, in particular, facilitates the parliament and its functioning.”
Douglas said the parliament has rules, procedures and regulations that govern how it conducts its business and these are rooted into law and some are rooted in the constitution.
With reference to the motion filed by Opposition Leader Mark Brantley, Douglas explained, “The clerk is deposited with a motion from the member, the member who is the leader of the Opposition, the member for Nevis 9; there are clear instructions and procedures that should be followed, once the Clerk receives that particular request, that a motion be placed before the parliament to be heard.”
“I have absolutely nothing to do with how and when and where that motion ends up,” stated Dr. Douglas. He indicated that it is the parliament and its personnel who are the ones who receive such requests that a motion be placed before the parliament.”
Dr. Douglas was however careful to distinguish that the matter of the motion is also the responsibility of the leaders and key people in the National Assembly, which is headed by the Speaker, Mr. Curtis Martin, who in the exercise of his functions and duties, is aided by the Clerk of the House, Mr. Jose Lloyd, who is a public servant.
Douglas related that the opposition had to make three attempts to bring the motion because, as he explained, when it was first brought, it was not properly placed before the Clerk of the House for consideration.
“Long after, it was eventually corrected and placed before the Clerk, in order for it to get into parliament. But as I said, there were other things that were already on the agenda… (the calendar of the parliament) and although I personally consider this matter to be very important, there are other things. And that (the motion) is not more important than making sure that people’s salaries and wages are being paid. And that is why we have taken the position, the full Cabinet supports the position that the budget must come before the Motion of No Confidence, Stated the Prime Minister on Tuesday’s radio program, “Ask the PM”, aired on ZIZ radio between 10:00am-11:00am normally.
“However, as the government and as the Prime Minister, I stand ready to ensure that there is facilitation of the process; (to) make sure that there is a Clerk, to make sure there has been appropriate discussion between the Clerk and the Speaker and I have to make sure a leader of Government Business is in place.” He also said that he has to make sure that adequate dialogue, or what happens as a result of the dialogue.
“I have to make sure that my own commitment with regard to the legislative agenda of the government is being pursued. That’s where I come in as a Prime minister. And I again want to make it absolutely clear that the budget, which is a special session (that) was already advertised to be brought into the parliament, for debate and discussion, and for the appropriate and necessary Appropriation Bill be debated and passed; so that the budget would be one which the government can, with legal support, collect taxes and also spend money that it would have collected,” stated the leader who is also the Finance Minister.
“The motion will come at the appropriate time,” Douglas stated in rather emphatic terms.