In August, Cayo South PUP Area Representative, Julius Espat was suspended as a member of the House of Representatives and unceremoniously put out from the chambers of the House as per directive of the Speaker of the House, Michael Peyrefitte. Espat’s position since that day is that he was illegally suspended because Peyrefitte did not follow the Standing Orders of the House. Despite his position, however, the suspension remains effective and as such, Espat has not been receiving his monthly salary of about four thousand dollars. Espat filed a lawsuit against Peyrefitte and both parties appeared in front of Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin, for case management. We first spoke to Espat.
“Well to start with they have to ask for an apology which was never done. I offered one and it was never accepted. Secondly the speaker has to name you not a member of the house. Thirdly the Minister from Pickstock rose to give his part of what he believed should have happened and at the end of the day the speaker did not ask for a vote and so it was a series of errors that were committed along the way and everybody knew what happened at the end I was forcibly removed which is an illegal act. You have to understand the House of Representatives when the rules are set up is designed with the mind that you have heated debate, that is part of it you are having opposing parties representing their people with difference of opinions and it is designed with the knowledge that it will be heated and therefore the rules are set so that if somebody is saying something that is out of the line then the first step is that the speaker ask that person to apologize and if he refuses to then the speaker can go ahead and do what he believes is right; in this case it didn’t happened. We are confident more than 100% that we are right, there are rules and regulations in the House of Representatives and those are called standing orders and in that case the speaker did not follow the standing orders to be able to suspend a member. You have to understand that the speaker does not have the authority to suspend a member only the house has so he has to call a vote of the house to be able have that happen and that did not happen so we are confident that our case is a good one.”
We also spoke to Peyrefitte who is not standing down from his position.
“I maintain that I wasn’t wrong and that matter is proceeding with as well so we will have to wait until the result of that but with me whatever the court decides, the court decides. I will respect whatever decision the court makes. I’m also of the belief that that as well is something that’s very possible that the court doesn’t have to get involved in it but we are very preliminary having discussions on that and I don’t want to prejudice that. You saw what happened, I don’t believe that what happened in the house that I was wrong, that is my position. The court will decide that and if the court decides against me I will accept the court’s decision. I certainly won’t punch any wall and then try to blame the police.”
“Have you since the incidence gone over the standing order to make sure that you are on right footing.”
“I was over it a thousand times before the house meeting. He can be returned upon a resolution of the house. In that case for him to come back the standing orders are very specific as to how he comes back and so to me that would be the best way but we are in court so let me not prejudice it with any further discussion on that.”
The Chief Justice has given the defense up to 15th November to submit its case. Peyrefitte was represented by the Solicitor General, Anita Johnson.