KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Question time in Parliament proves that democracy is alive and well in this country, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Tuesday.
“We have had three hours of question time, which is, in the parliamentary system, one of the mechanisms, one of the devices for eliciting information and holding government to account,” he said during the meeting of the House of Assembly.
“And Mr. Speaker, we used to ask a full complement of questions, the answers use to be very brief — when I was in the opposition,” said Gonsalves, leader of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP).
“So question time will go through within an hour,” he said of the ULP’s years in opposition.
“We (the ULP government) have made it our policy to answer the questions fully, to respect the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
“And for those who say that something is wrong in this country with parliamentary democracy, we have just had three hours where the government of this country has been held to account by the Parliamentary opposition. And they have received their answers on a wide range of matters, from the economy, to issues relating to home-helpers and sports, and culture and roads, … etc. I just want to mention that,” Gonsalves said.
He said that some people apparently would prefer parliamentary accountability to take place at the street corner rather than in Parliament.
“And there are many mock parliaments across St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where, apparently, questions are to be answered and not here in the Parliament,” he said to heckles from a Member of Parliament from the opposition New Democratic Party.
“I am a graduate of those parliaments and several other parliaments,” Gonsalves said in seemingly light-hearted response.
“But I always insist that this be the forum where accountability has to be sort and made,” he further said.
“And that is why I made the point about as a matter of policy over the last 11 years, we have answered questions fully … ” he said, adding “Always truthfully,” in response to an indecipherable comment from across the floor.
Parliament heard 20 questions from the opposition, relating to the economy, agriculture, disaster relief, fisheries, and among other things, gender affairs.