Today’s meeting of the House of Assembly was suspended after just a few minutes, without any of the day’s business being addressed.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves moved the suspension until next Thursday consequent upon the late arrival of Deputy Speaker Carlos James, who arrived about 30 minutes after the scheduled start of the meeting.
The Speaker, Jomo Thomas, had told Gonsalves, who is also leader of the house, that he would be late, the prime minister told lawmakers.
Soon after James called the house to order and said the prescribed prayer, around 10:30 a.m., Gonsalves rose and moved the suspension.
Gonsalves noted that the meeting was starting late and said this had nothing to do with the absence of Thomas, who had informed him that he would have been late for the meeting.
The prime minister said it is the duty of lawmakers to be on time for the meetings of Parliament.
He said that if members would be late or cannot attend, it is their duty “to indicate to their leader, so that their leader can indicate to the House.
“That’s how we share information. We know sometimes a professional might be at the court, somebody might be — a minister might be held up with a particular appointment, but this is the way we have done it always in the past.
“I want the public to join me so that we don’t condone lateness and ill-discipline and that we must share information, if, for one reason, we are — one or more is going to be late,” said the prime minister
He added: “Every single member of this house is important. That’s why we are here. Mr. Speaker, we can start early on Thursday, we have enough time to put our affairs in order,” he said, and moved the suspension until next week,
Among other things, the meeting was scheduled to debate amendments to the Drug Possession of Misuse Act amidst the granting of licenses to private sector stakeholders and traditional cultivators as SVG moves to establish a medical marijuana industry.
Leader of the opposition Godwin Friday told iWitness News, on Thursday, of his understanding of the development.
“Apparently, the speaker is in court, which, of course, is another issue as to what takes priority and then the deputy speaker was indicating that he was supposed to be here, he was notified, I am told, and it just didn’t happen.”
He said someone called James, who said he was on his way.
“There seemed to have been some misunderstanding about whether he should be here or not, but, anyway he was half an hour late. He was supposed to be here for 10 for parliament,” Friday said.
iWitness News calls to James and Thomas’ mobile phones shortly after the suspension went directly to voicemail.
“I think it is disappointing because we were looking forward to debating the bill, we have prepared for it over and over again and it is something that the public has been anticipating and the reason given for the suspension shows a lack of discipline on the part of the speaker and deputy speaker, because the speaker is in charge there.
“It is not a good picture for us because we had known when the parliament was scheduled, we came, I arrived on the ferry this morning to come to parliament, other members were here to debate this bill because we think it is important,” said Friday, who lives on the northern Grenadine island of Bequia.
“You know we are the ones who have been pushing to get the inclusion of the decriminalization aspect of the bill so we were looking forward to debating it today so that it could be passed in to legislation.”
The opposition leader said his side sees some “serious issues” with the bill but were intending to debate it and fulsomely,” adding that they support liberalization of the nation’s marijuana laws and feel that the government should move to full legalisation.