Opposition Leader Presents Privilege Motion Against Speaker Amidst Claims of Bias
Upon having the motion of no-confidence rejected, Opposition Leader fired off an email late yesterday evening to the House Speaker. Barrow did not mince words or his thoughts, and told the House Speaker that she is a waste of time. Speaker Woods read the email in its entirety before the House.
Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House of Representatives: “To complete this process, it is necessary for me to now subsequently inform you of the response received. The response was sent to the clerk NA at BNA.gov.bz. The email has been accessed and opened by all staff of Parliament. Greetings. The email was sent at 6:14 yesterday from the Leader of Opposition and it states: “Greetings. You, Madam Speaker, have exposed yourself to be a complete waste of time as Speaker of the Honourable House.” – I ask the galleries I will ask the galleries, as per Standing Order 87-4, you are to remain silent. If you do not, I will have to ask the police to do their duty and ask the galleries to be cleared. I continue: “You repeatedly act as a shield for the government, shamelessly misinterpreting and misapplying the standing orders to protect the Prime Minister and his government from public scrutiny and accountability. When the UDP was in government, we were not afraid of the opposition. We allowed for no confidence motions as we are true protectors of democracy. With each erroneous ruling you expose yourself as a complete biased speaker that will stop at nothing to protect the PUP government. I was foolish to believe a former PUP senator and candidate would be anything other than a partisan hack. Signed, Honorable Dr. Shyne Barrow, Leader of Opposition, House of Representatives, MP for Mesopotamia.”
Speaker Woods noted that the email that she coins as a breach of the standing orders of the House, will be forwarded to a disciplinary body, and will not be dealt with during today’s proceedings. She further noted the reasons behind her decision to reject the motion of no-confidence.
Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House of Representatives: “This is a grave matter, Members. I will remind all Members that this Chair does not make determinations on the whim. This Chair seeks the legal counsel of the Attorney General’s Office as we all know that the Parliament does not yet have its own parliamentary legal counsel. In addition to that, The Chair seeks the guidance from the well-experienced staff of Parliament. In addition to that, the Chair looks to the precedents that have been set. In this case, there was a no-confidence motion tabled in the previous Parliament and it is clear that that no-confidence motion did meet the threshold where it did not contravene standing orders. Members should also be aware that this Chair also looks to the precedent practices set not only in other Commonwealth jurisdictions but by the experiences of other speakers. The response that was submitted to or addressed to me yesterday evening contains serial breach of Standing Order 38-5, imputing improper motives to the Chair. It is also a breach of Standing Order 38A which questions the conduct of the Chair. This is not the first time this has occurred. It as well constitutes a libel on the Chair and calls into question as well breach of parliamentary privileges. I will now direct you to Erskine May. Erskine May at paragraph 12.1 says, “When any of these rights and immunities is disregarded or attacked, the offense is called a breach of privilege. Each house can claim the right to address these contempts. These are actions which while not breaches of any specific privileges, it impedes the performance of its functions where it’s an offense against the authority or dignity of the House, of its members, such as disobedience to its legitimate commands or libels upon itself.” In order to address the matter properly it really is a matter for the Privileges Committee.”