KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 18, IWN– Opposition legislators can ask a total of 27 question when Parliament meets. But last week, they asked only 16, a point that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves noted as he complained about the length of some questions.
“Mr. Speaker, I just want to say this, preliminarily. When an honourable member asks a question with so many parts, at least they must give us the courtesy of sending us the questions on time. Because, as honourable members are aware, the rule are that you submit your question at least 10 clear days before [Parliament meets],” Gonsalves said before responding to a five-part question from Sen. Linton Lewis about predial larceny.
“I just want to say that when the Honourable Speaker saw the lateness of the time, he appended a note and said he will understand if honourable members can’t answer the question because of the time given, Gonsalves further said.
“When I saw that, of course, I didn’t want to come here and not answer the question, because, question time is an important exercise in holding the executive to account. So, I am disappointed that I didn’t get it on time,” he further said, adding that is why Parliament was postponed to March 11, from March 7.
The Speaker, Hendrick Alexander, said he has also indicated to the Opposition that questions not meeting the time requirements will not be placed on the Order Paper.
“And I also indicated that question should not be of excessive length, and every question should deal with a specific topic and not several topics at the same time,” the speaker further said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister spoke of the number of questions submitted for oral answers.
“I must say parenthetically, Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed that the Opposition, instead of asking 27 questions, which they are supposed to ask, they have asked 16 — 11 short,” the Prime Minister further said.
“Mr. Speaker, I just want to say this, an important constitutional and political accountability issue is to ask question to the executive, to hold them to account — that is fundamental to an opposition.
“If you have 27 to ask for oral answers — three for each member — and you only ask 16, what you are saying to the public is that you are not doing your job well. And, if you are not doing your job well in holding the Government to account, the question would naturally arise, … how can you reasonably expect them to give you another one? How can you expect the to put you [as the government]? That’s a logical thing,” Gonsalves said.
Four of the nine opposition lawmakers were absent from Parliament last week. And while Central Kingstown representative, St. Clair Leacock, did attend, he did not submit any questions to be answered.