A government MP feels that the opposition has been forcing Parliament to violate the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Mr. Speaker, that we cannot let an obstructionist group force the Parliament to violate the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” MP for East St. George, Camillo Gonsalves told Parliament.
Gonsalves told Parliament last Friday that his comments were in light of the fact that the Constitutions says there “shall be a Public Accounts Committee.
“That we have to have it, and that the House shall appoint a public Accounts Committee. Not the Honourable Leader of the Opposition. The House shall appoint a Public Accounts Committee. And if the Honourable Leader of the Opposition is recalcitrant in that regard, it cannot force the entire House of Assembly into a violation of the constitution,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer.
“And I submit, Mr. Speaker, that, in my view, you have the authority to appoint where the Leader of the Opposition does not want to appoint.”
The Public Accounts Committee, which by convention in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, has held very few meetings since Arnhim Eustace became Leader of the Opposition in 2001.
Gonsalves told Parliament that his view of the Constitution is similar for select committees of Parliament.
He made the point, noting that the Constitution says that select committees shall be constituted to reflect the balance in the House.
“But it has not taken place like that because they have refused to submit names for select committees,” Gonsalves said of the opposition.
“But you, I submit, Mr. Speaker, have the obligation to ensure that the select committees reflect the balance of the House. If the Honourable Leader of the Opposition does not want to name members to participate on the Public Accounts Committee or the special committees or the Committee on Finance, which just met without them this week, then, I believe that you, Mr. Speakers, can name members of the opposition and they can decide whether they want to attend.
“But their recalcitrance or their obstructionist behaviour cannot cause or force this entire Parliament to violate the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Standing Orders of this Honourable House.”
The opposition did not attend Parliament for the Estimates Debate on Friday as part of their on-going protest of the Dec. 9 general election, which they say were stolen by the ruling Unity Labour Party.
Gonsalves said that the Standing Orders contemplate excuses for absences of individuals.
“But it does not contemplate a bloc absence; it does not contemplate everybody walking out en masse because, under our rules, that cannot ever be an excused absence,” he said.