Opposition Leader Boycotts House Meeting, Citing Lack of Adequate Notice

Opposition Leader Boycotts House Meeting, Citing Lack of Adequate Notice

While Albert’s Area Representative, Tracy Panton, sent her apologies for not attending today’s House Meeting, Leader of the Opposition, Moses Shyne Barrow boycotted the session.  Earlier this week, Barrow did express dissatisfaction at not being given adequate notice for the meeting.  He did so, referring to the required five-day notice written in the standing orders of the House.  Barrow did not partake in today’s proceedings, but he was outside the National Assembly where he spoke with the media.

Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “Why is it important that we get seven days notice, five clear days? Because of standing order 19-3. Standing order 19-3 requires that in order to ask questions to ministers you must give them five clear days notice. So by giving us three days notice of a House meeting, you abrogate the privileges of the members in a very, very crucial tool that we have for oversight, that we have for representing our people in the House of Representatives. There are questions that we have in Toledo East, in Stann  Creek West, in Mesopotamia, in Collet, in Alberts, in Corozal North, that the people want answered. And there is a process and a procedure, there are rules, there are standing orders. So for the executive and the speaker to proceed in a matter that deviates from the protocol that the speaker has established during this term of parliament undermines our democracy. It totally disadvantages an Opposition that is already limited in numbers and it goes against our good governance.”

At the start of today’s proceedings, Speaker of the House, Valerie Woods provided her response to Barrow’s upset.  She noted that contrary to what Barrow has claimed, the National Assembly’s office did not go against the standing orders.

Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House: “The Clerk of the National Assembly was notified on Sunday, June 23, by the Cabinet Secretary on behalf of the Executive for June 28, to be set aside for a House meeting. This was brought to my attention and the notice went out on Monday, June 24, when the orders of the day were verified. I do appreciate the concern on notice. However, the notice for this meeting is not in contravention of the standing orders. As you have indicated indeed since being in the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, I have worked with the Clerk’s Office and that of the Cabinet Secretary to the Executive to improve on notification. While there is no notice period specified in the standing orders for notification of regular House meetings, the Office has improved on the practice of at least one week before the date of the meeting. This has been done in an effort to allow Standing Order 19-3 on notice of question to be applied as often as possible. This effort has been undertaken since in Belize, by practice, all administrations to date have not utilized standing order 11-1 of establishing House meetings weekly on Fridays. As you may recall, notice of meetings among other areas of the standing orders are being looked at in the comprehensive list of recommendations for proposals.”

Prime Minister John Briceno remarked on the absence of the opposition, saying that it is unfortunate that they are not present to see the historic bill being presented today.  Of course, it would not be the norm if Barrow didn’t take a little jab from the government’s side.

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Responding to the Leader of the Oppositions short notice I think I will have to take some responsibility on that. But I was hoping that he would have been more understanding. But I guess, I don’t think the others are boycotting, it’s only him boycotting, he’s the only one that comes to House meetings and it’s going to help me to be better today. My wife is in the gallery, so I have to be in my best behavior. But also, Madam Speaker, I was hoping that the leader would understand that we are 19 days away from a by-election in Toledo East and that we all understand that whilst the work of the House cannot stop we also need to do some campaigning. I guess he probably already threw in the towel that we will not go in to win in Toledo East. But that does not stop us from campaigning because we have to go there and campaign and meet the people and to ensure that the PUP continues to represent the good people of Toledo East. So I was hoping that there would have been more understanding, but as his father once famously said, it is what it is.”

Area Representative Orlando Habet was also absent today due to sick leave.

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