Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday says he stands by his decision to boycott the Budget Debate over last week’s decision by Speaker of the House of Assembly, Jomo Thomas, not to allow debate of a motion of no confidence in the Ralph Gonsalves government.
He told a press conference of his New Democratic Party in Kingstown on Wednesday what while persons are calling for opposition lawmakers’ salaries to be docked, he is prepared to lose his entire pay over what he presented as actions in defence of the nation’s Constitution.
“It was not a decision we took lightly. We had very many debates and discussions among ourselves and we had advice, we spoke to other people, we saw what happened elsewhere in the region, we saw what we did with respect of St. Kitts,” Friday told the conference.
The NDP president said that when the opposition in St. Kitts and Nevis had failed to have a similar motion debated in the federation’s assembly, his party had stood up for them.
“When I consider that we organised a protest [during the CARICOM heads of Government meeting] down at Buccament Bay, that the NDP went and brought this matter, in essence, shamed many of the governments in the region for not taking a stance against Denzil Douglas, we did that.
“We brought Timothy Harris here when he was in opposition, gave him a platform, he sat right in this room here with us as he thanked us for standing up for the people of St. Kitts, giving them a platform to defend their constitutional rights. How can we say to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines we will do less? I cannot, in good conscience do it. And I don’t care if the members of the government are upset about it,” Friday said.
Last week Wednesday, Jan. 31, the opposition failed to have its motion of no confidence debated, with the speaker allowing the government to make an amendment that turned it into a motion of confidence.
Thomas said on Facebook one day later that he had erred in that decision.
And, as the Budget Address was about to commence on Monday, opposition lawmakers presented to the Speaker a letter outlining why they thought his decision last Wednesday was “unconstitutional”.
The opposition lawmakers then walked out of the Parliament and the budget debate concluded Tuesday morning with only Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, having spoken on it.
There have been calls for deductions to be made to opposition lawmakers’ pay because they stayed away from Parliament.
But this does not seem to be shaking Friday away from his position.
“I heard some of them say they are going to dock our pay. I will give up my entire salary if it means defending the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines… The main point is that we must recognise that there are rights and obligations that we, as a democracy, must uphold.
“Whenever these rights are being trampled upon, it doesn’t matter how powerful the person, how persuasive they are, how bellicose they are, people must stand up and if we, as the legislators, who know the significance of it, if we don’t give leadership in it, most of the people would just say let the Budget go; it’s fun, I like the debate last Wednesday, leh we have some more fun in the House.”
Friday was speaking about the three hours of debate in Parliament last week Wednesday as the speaker tried to decide how the national assembly should proceed on the motion of no confidence.
Some persons have said that they found the debate informative, while others said it was entertaining.
“It’s more than that,” Friday said. “It is much more serious than that. So that is why we took the stance that we did.”
He said that most people, when he explained the situation to them, said they think that the opposition made the right decision.
“Even so, I am still committed to the decision as the right one on behalf of the people. Sometimes, you have to take unpopular decisions if you think they are right. And this one, I believe it is popular and even if it weren’t, I’ll still do the same thing,” Friday told the media.
Friday certainly makes a good point. How long should we tolerate the fact that the Government manipulates the Constitution when it suits them and completely ignores it when it does not suit them.
If the entire nation protested in front of the Financial Complex Gonsalves would not care one bit. He laughs when the people protest. In a sense he spits on the people, their rights and ambition to just have an improved lifestyle. Meanwhile look at his lifestyle and all his family and associates.
In exactly what way has the government “manipulated the Constitution when it suits them”? Certainly not in this case when all impartial legal scholars — including Dr. Linton Lewis, Parnel Campbell, and external constitutional experts — agree that their amended motion was perfectly valid.
It is an Oppostion that walks out of the House on the slightest pretext like some spoiled brat that can’t get his way with his parents and storms out the house that is defecating all over our Constitution.
This is why they will never launch a legal challenge of this issue.
Believe me, all of them hungry dogs will flock back to the House if their pay is docked the same way a spoiled brat would rush home and bend low to his parents if his allowance were cut.
This poor excuse for a political party is not read to govern!
Obviously the government is manipulating the constitution when they say a majority is needed to bring forward a motion of no confidence when in fact it explicitly states three members are needed. This is not the first time such manipulation has occurred.
I think the opposition walked out because they actually seem to have otherwise no purpose in the house. As long as all the members of the ruling party are in favor of a motion it always passes. The no confidence vote is one of the few exceptions. Ralph Gonalves knows that the opposition in SVG government has no power, that was the reason for all the trouble he caused in the old days. such as road blocks. Obviously at the moment the NDP has the majority of the support of the people and Ralph Gonsalves has to prevent a vote of no confidence at all costs. If an election were called today, it would take an awful lot of cheating, more than in the last election, to make the ULP appear to win .
The opposition does not need a vote of no confidence or general elections to bring a government down .All they need is one elected parliamentarian from the governing side to join them. The NDP said they know of two who were willing to leave the Gov’t . Who or what is stopping those two or one from joining the NDP? Tell us who or what is stopping the NDP from joining Saboto and making him Prime Minister as touted by Iits leader , that Saboto should be the PM not Camillo.THe NDP will lose the next elections because they continue to make the same mistakes since 1998.
Mr. Friday should have more respect for the people who voted for him. Regardless of how you fell, remember you are representing the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Please stand up to the task, if you are running now, how can you be an effective leader?
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