Chair of the opposition New Democratic Party, Daniel Cummings has opposed the appointment of former Unity Labour Party senator and candidate, Deborah Charles as Clerk of the House of Assembly.
He said on radio, on Tuesday, that Charles has been announced as Clerk of the House of Assembly, replacing Nicole Herbert, who has retired.
Cummings, who defeated Charles in 2015 and 2020 in her bids to unseat him as MP for West Kingstown, noted that Charles is “a known partisan politician”.
Charles taught for 31 years before contesting the December 2015 election. After losing the election, she was appointed a senator and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education.
There has not been much mention of Charles since she lost in the November 2020 polls.
She holds a degree in law and after the 2020 poll she was said to be employed as a lecturer at the Community College.
“If this does not make a mockery of democracy, I won’t know what else. These rogues in government have come to the point where they feel they can do anything they want,” Cummings said on his party “New Times” on NICE Radio.
“I have commented before on the fact that a person who has been named as a candidate for the ruling regime, still holds, to the best of my knowledge, the critical office in the hospital as hospital administrator and this country has remained silent,” he said.
He was referring to Grace Walters, who the ULP’s constituency council in North Windward has selected as their preferred candidate in that district in the next general elections, constitutionally due in February 2026.
“Something is dreadfully wrong with us as a people,’ Cummings said.
“How could you take such a position in government and declare your partisanship to the point of being the candidate for the ruling regime in an election to come and continue to hold what is supposed to be an important, independent office?
“But this one for the Clerk of the House, it takes the cake … because these officers are independent officers to dispense of justice.”
He noted that everyone has the right to support a party of their choice.
“But when you have been a politician and you still are a politician, how can you then turn around and hold an independent office? And you want to tell me this is a democratic society?
“You want it to me that anybody could have confidence in that individual dispensing justice from that position? It seems to me that these people have just come to the position that they are the law of the land and they will do what the hell ever they want. That’s the only way one could understand what this means,” Cummings said.
He said that as far as he is aware, an appointment such as Charles’ is “completely unprecedented” and does not happen “in a normal society.
“And one has to wonder if the association of this government with the regimes like those in Venezuela, in Russia, and like places is what has led to this kind of nonsense.”
The website of the House of Assembly said that in the assembly, the clerk may be looked upon as its “chief servant”.
“One of his/her great qualities is a love for the traditions of the house, and because of his/her experiences he/she is advisor to the Speaker in these respects.”
The website said that the clerk is also expected to assist in the interpretation of the rules of the house, to see that new members are properly inducted into the practices and procedures of the house since new Members can be thoroughly confused by these.
“Members “learning the ropes” in Parliament is the responsibility of the Clerk to a large measure. In addition, except for the possession of a strong sense of humour, the qualities of a Clerk are as expected of the Speaker — patient, trustworthy, of strong character, be upright, et cetera. The Clerk may be regarded as Secretary to Parliament; indeed, in some countries he/she is called the Secretary General,” the website said.
Cummings said he was waiting to hear how the population responds to “such a backward, negative, divisive and indeed corrupt act to put an active politician to serve as Clerk of the House of Assembly.
“I fear for my country. I fear for the future of this country. Never, never has a government been so callous, spiteful and wicked,” he said.
“We have seen family members of the ruling prime minister being appointed to some of the most sensitive positions, like the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) and whatever else that has turned out to be and nobody, not many persons seem to understand the danger of such a move…”
Cummings, a former manager of Central Water and Sewerage Authority, said he speaks from a position of experience.
“I keep saying to the people of this country, I have been a public servant, working in a statutory corporation. And I know the reach of the fellow we got here, even to who shall be hired, who should be fired, whether or not the people qualify, and that is the level of the politics. Somebody who favours must find work.
“So, when you have that tendency, and then you put people of known political bias in such critical offices, you can only imagine how those officers function. In other words, they cannot have an independent mind, they simply have to do what they are told. And I’ll say again, I know, based on my experience, how the fella we got here works,” Cummings said.
He said that for him, Charles’ appointment is “a very frightening development.
“… A democracy must have the pillars secured. The supervisor of elections, the clerk of the house, the hospital administrator. These are sensitive positions requiring people, first of all, with the competency,” Cummings said.
“What experience has the former senator, now Clerk of the House, … got in terms of administration and being clerk of the house? What is her knowledge of the laws related to the House of Assembly? What experience does she have in managing anybody or anything?
He said these are things that are not simple and which people should slight.
“Our country has slipped into decadence. When people behave like this, it tells you that they have no respect for the rule of law and the norms of society,” he said.
“The appointment of Deborah Charles as clerk of the house, in my humble opinion, is a travesty, is a disgrace. That is an independent officer requiring the person appointed to act fairly and justly, somebody who was part of the ruling regime should never be allowed to hold such office. Never!”