Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Senator Carlos James, on Thursday, apologised for his tardiness one week earlier, which resulted in the meeting of Parliament being suspended after just a few minutes.
“I want to use this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to apologise for the delay to the start of the proceedings, of last Thursday’s sitting of the Parliament,” James said as he rose to debate an amendment to the nation’s marijuana law, which lawmakers later approved.
“I communicated this to the Leader of the House in writing and I also communicated with the Clerk of the House by way of telephone on the said Thursday and this morning, I had the opportunity to speak with the Leader of the Opposition,” James said.
“The reasons, Mr. Speaker, were as a result of an unexpected personal matter, which, indeed, was unavoidable, but, Mr. Speaker, nonetheless, I take full responsibility for the delayed proceedings, and, as a consequence, the suspension,” James said.
“And notwithstanding, Mr Speaker, your absence due to a matter in the court, which I had knowledge of, I want to acknowledge and take responsibility for that. That is the right thing for any person who aspires to leadership and who takes the people’s business serious, that is the right and honourable thing to do,” he said.
On July 19, Parliament began at about 10:30 a.m., half an hour later than scheduled.
Soon after James called the meeting to order and said the prescribed prayer, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves rose and suspended the meeting, expressing displeasure with the late start.
The prime minister said the later start had nothing to do with the absence of the Speaker Jomo Thomas, who had informed him that he would have been late for the meeting.
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.
James proves ‘a deputy is not essential’
Meanwhile, speaking on radio after the meeting was suspended, Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Roland “Patel” Matthews, said that the development “just goes to show that some persons when given responsibility of that magnitude that you do not deserve, it is obvious that you cannot function in those areas”.
Matthew is an opposition lawmaker and defeated James by 12 votes in the 2015 election to be returned for a second term in office.
He noted that James is vying to become Member of Parliament for North Leeward, which he represents in Parliament.
“I am not going to bash him in any way but what I am saying is that you are known by your actions. And here you are in a position, a very important position, where you knew beforehand that you are responsible for the start of the parliament today, a very important parliament at that, where the business of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines would be discussed and you have the prime minister, the entire administration and you have the opposition, entire opposition who make up the House of Parliament, they are waiting, and a senator, who has been nominated, not voted in, but you were nominated by the prime minister to be deputy speaker via senatorial appointment and you fail to show.”
Matthews said that James had put the business of the nation on hold.
“And that sends a very bad signal, a nasty signal, if you want to put it that way that people who you expect to know better have been entrusted with these high positions and are failing to do their duties.”
He said the development goes to the root of some of the problems in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“People are placed in positions that they are not suited for. They are irresponsible and hence you have situations of this sort happening,” the opposition lawmakers said, adding that he could not recall another occasion where the Parliament has to be postponed because of the tardiness of the speaker or deputy speaker.
Matthews noted that Thomas arrived at Parliament around 10:40 a.m., arriving about 40 minutes late and after Gonsalves had moved the suspension.
“But he had indicated that to the leader of government business. And that is why you have a deputy. But, it is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that a deputy is not essential because if he was essential he would have found himself in the rightful place chairing the people’s business in the house of parliament that he was absent,” Matthews said, using the works of a decades old calypso.