Speaker Emphasizes Discipline and Duties at House of Representatives

Speaker Emphasizes Discipline and Duties at House of Representatives

The House of Representatives meeting got underway after ten o’clock this morning with the announcements from the Speaker being the first item on the agenda.  In this portion of today’s session, Speaker Valerie Woods spoke on the need for greater discipline in the House Meetings, and how she intends to carry out her duties.  

Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House of Representatives: “It would be remiss of me since we last met in this chamber to not address the issue of the comments that transpired from that last sitting and has continued over the past week regarding the handling of disagreements with the Speaker’s rulings. I take this opportunity to repeat again for the record that members are free to disagree and criticize vociferously. However, such must be able to be communicated in a manner befitting of the respect for the office and for the institution. It is about the respect for the rules. It is about the respect for the institution of parliament an institution for which much work must be done to regain the public’s trust in its management and conduct. As the speaker, my job coming into this environment is to rule with clarity of thinking, and not to be distracted by the politics or to be taken down the alleyways of unparliamentary, indecorous and undignified behavior, unbecoming of the position of a parliamentarian and the expectations that come with such a weighty position. I am duty-bound to preside by the rules and the long-standing best practices of parliaments and presiding officers, without fear, without favor, from either side of this House. And so I commit to continue doing so.”

The matter of decorum – respect – and professionalism would dominate today’s meeting as several other members would rise to give their two cents.  Member for Albert, Tracy Panton, was one who dug up some bones on how she has been disrespected in the House.

Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “There is a lot of moral grandstanding on this issue in the House. We all agree that there must be a level of professionalism. There must always be a level of respect. There must be a level of decorum. And that should not apply to me because I am a woman. It should apply to me because I’m a member of the National Assembly. So these token approaches to create a gender issue is really a concern to me. Mr. Speaker, not only has the member from Orange Walk South been grossly disrespectful to me but the member from Orange Walk Central, our Honorable Prime Minister himself “If you want to be treated as a lady, you must act like one?” Really? I agree that we must respect the ruling of the Speaker but the kind of attacks I have received in this Honourable House, and don’t tell me about semantics, take it to the Privileges Committee, the Member from Orange Walk South was adamant that he would not apologize to me in this National Assembly. Absent and all, the meeting following the gross disrespect not only to me Mr. Speaker, to his mother, to his wife, to his sister, to the Speaker of the House, to his female colleagues on the government side. Because when you disrespect one, you disrespect all. So that disrespect didn’t only land on my shoulders, Mr. Speaker. And so, I am going to be guided when I agree with the member from Cayo South you know when he spoke to the media yesterday. He said, you can say anything in this house but when you done you say mea culpa. I am still Orange Walk South to say mea culpa and for the member of Orange Walk Central to say mea culpa.”

Patrick Faber, Area Representative, Collet Division: “Everybody do it by October 31 and we’re done.” 

Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “Yes and that would have been my suggestion. If we are going to set a date when we are going to reset the decorum of this house then let us set the date. The suggestion from the chairman of the committee is October 31st. Hopefully, there will be a meeting or something in writing by all members who have disrespected women and two disrespected colleagues in this national house in such a blatantly disrespectful way.”

Member for Cayo South, Julius Espat, also spoke on the issue of respect.  In jest, Espat told the House that he feels that he has been the most abused by a sitting Prime Minister.  He did agree, however, that there is the need for betterment in the house.  Of course, he did have to take a jab or two at the Leader of the Opposition.

Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “We’re all wrong. We’ve got to better it. I agree with your member from Albert. We should all apologize. If nobody wants to apologize, I will apologize for any member on this side that has caused you any hurtful feeling. And you know that we know each other from way back when you were a supporter on this side, when you were a supporter on that side we love you the two way. We have to better how we conduct ourselves in this house, period. You might not like it member from Mesop. But we have to do it. As I said, a true leader knows when he’s wrong and apologizes. The good Lord gave us that advice. No matter which religion you aspire to be or support, it’s the same one man. And he leads us in that direction. I want to go back to what a real doctor said. Dr. Eugene Zabaneh. How many doctorate you got Doc ?  Dr. Zabaneh that is a real doctor, that’s an aspiring doctor I’m not sure. The real doctor made reference to what is right and what is wrong. He made reference to what the procedure was supposed to be and he made it clear what the authority of the committee had and he also made it clear the ultimate authority in this house, like it or not, is the Speaker. I will put this on the record. The Prime Minister alluded to it. I necessarily don’t allude I say that it is. I have had differences with our Speaker because I have thought that in the past she has been too fair with you guys. I have mentioned to her that she has allowed you to speak more than you should. She has allowed you to object more than you should. She has allowed you to do more. If I was the speaker, you wouldn’t even open your mouth. But she is the speaker and I haven’t disrespected her. I respect the seat and the position that she holds. And I could say this publicly of how I disagreed with her because she knows me well. And she’s doesn’t care if I disagree either she will do what she believes is right or wrong. And we got mutual friends, you know. She and I got mutual friends and they whisper in my ears and they whisper in her ears, it doesn’t matter.”

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