Member of Parliament for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings has secured the special chair that his doctor prescribed for a back injury.
But while he made the announcement in Parliament on Thursday, the opposition MP did not use the chair during that day’s sitting, as he was thrown out because of a disruption.
Cummings had requested that the Parliament provided the EC$1,100 chair, but Speaker of the House, Hendrick Alexander denied the request.
The MP has said that his back was injured when he and other opposition lawmakers were physically removed from Parliament in 2011.
Speaking during the Congratulatory Remarks segment on Thursday, Cummings thanked his constituents for buying him the chair.
“Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank the people of West Kingstown for coming to my aid in providing me with a chair suitable to my needs in the execution of my duties in this House and in accordance with the specific requirements of my medical practitioners in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
“I make this comment, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding your refusal over a period of two years to afford me this basic requirement,” he said, and further thanked his constituents for coming to his aid “in ensuring that I am not wheelchair-bound”.
Later during the morning’s proceedings, as Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was about to make a Ministerial Statement, Cummings stood up and addressed the Speaker.
(Listen to the exchange at the end of this post)
“I crave your indulgence on a personal matter. I seek your permission Mr. Speaker to have access to my chair, which I believe is downstairs. I am going to ask for some assistance in getting my chair,” he told the Speaker.
But the Speaker responding saying that the chair could be brought in during the break.
He further said that bringing in the chair while Parliament was in session would create some disruptions.
“That’s too long a period for me. Mr Speaker, these statements are likely to go on for a long time,” Cummings responded.
But the Speaker maintained that bringing in the chair at that time would disrupt the proceedings.
“Mr. Speaker, you cannot determine for me what I can and cannot stand. I need to get my chair,” Cummings retorted.
“Well, if you cannot stand then you can probably withdraw,” the Speaker said, adding that the MP could withdraw until the break. He further repeated the point that he could not afford the disruption.
“Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! I seek your attention; I said I need to have my chair.”
“I say you cannot have it now.”
“I said, Mr. Speaker, you cannot determine whether or not I need my chair,” Cummings said.
“I can determine that.”
“No, you don’t know my condition, Mr. Speaker. You are not God Almighty. I need to have my chair.”
“Honourable Member, would you need to leave the House of Assembly right now,” the Speaker.
Cummings asked why and the Speaker told him because he was defying the Speaker’s ruling.
The back and forth continued and the Speaker threatened to ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to assist him in removing the opposition MP from the assembly chamber.
But MP for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock, rose and said, “Mr. Speaker let’s reason out this.”
“I am not reasoning out anything, I say the member must remove from the House,” the Speaker said.
Cummings continued to ask on what grounds the Speaker was having him removed from the House.
“I say you are disrupting the House,” the Speaker said.
“I am not disrupting. I stand on my rights,” Cummings said.
The Speaker was in the process of asking for a motion to have the MP removed from Parliament, even as Cummings repeated, “I said, I need to have my chair.”
Leacock urged tolerance.
“What tolerance about –. I’ve suffered too much disrespect at the hands of the Member for West Kingstown and I am asking him to move. … And If you need any assistance, ask a police to assist you,” the Speaker said.
“You going back to that?” Leacock asked, in an apparent reference to the incident in 2011 when police physically removed the opposition MP from Parliament.
“Yes, I am going back to that,” the Speaker said.
“No man, we don’t need that,” Leacock said.
After some further back and forth, the Speaker adjourned the House until Cummings withdrew from the chamber.”
“That makes sense,” Leacock said.