I was surfing – the Web, I mean; I am way past the virile body surfing age – the other day, when I came across a Saint Lucian curiosity, a site named www.stluciaparliament.com, and what a delightful anachronism it turned out to be.
The Home Page was a classic: a welcoming note from the Speaker of the House, my good friend Peter, who wrote of “an invaluable gateway”, “current and efficient communication”, “greater participation”, “promptly and accurately” and all the other nonsensespeak so beloved of our administrators.
I am sure, knowing Peter, that his words were sincerely meant, but the page was apparently last updated in July 2012, which kinda makes a nonsense of it all.
Seeking enlightenment, I next headed for the page entitled Officers of Parliament which, appropriately enough begins with The President of the Senate. Now I have to warn you, Dear Reader, that the language in this site should not be used as a model for English Grammar, Structure or Spelling; it maintains the standards generally expected of St Lucian political speakers.
I was informed that, and I quote, “For the purposes of its deliberation, a Senator must be elected to preside as head (President) by his or her ten peer senators at the first sitting of the Senate or at any time the position becomes vacant. At the time of the appointment, he or she must not be a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary. However, the President shall cease to hold office where he or she is not longer a senator or appointed to be a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary in the Executive (Cabinet)”. Get it?
Again, in all its linguistic glory, I quote the President’s role. “He or she is required to tactfully interpret the provisions of the standing orders to responds to Members’ points of order and makes pronouncements on procedure questioned when necessary. The President shall also call on senators to speak during the sitting of the Senate and ascertain and declare the will of the Senate either on the voices (the “ayes” or “noes”) or as the result of a division (a formal vote). In the case of a division, the President usually does not vote unless there is a tie. In all, the President is responsible for the maintenance of the dignity, order and decorum in this Chamber in the Parliament.”
The page ends somewhat cryptically, “Unlike the Speaker of the House of Assembly, there are no registered administrative or statutory responsibilities imposed upon the office of the President of the Senate, the office assumes its prominence since it falls fourth in the protocol order.” The next page, entitled Profile of the President of the Senate, is empty. It speaks volumes.
Another page that is well worth reading is entitled How a Bill is Passed into Law, so I’ll include a little appetite-whetting teaser here. “In the Senate, a first reading is followed by the general debate at second reading, followed by the Committee stage, considering the amendments to any clause(s), then report stages, and concluding with the third reading. There are two important restrictions on the legislative power of The Senate that must be observed. The first is the case of Money Bills, i.e. Bills dealing with taxation or allocates money to the government, which may not be introduced in the Senate. These Bills pass formally through the Senate without discussion. (Now that came as a surprise for me – the Senate does not discuss Money Bills?) The Second restrictions is that where Bills other than Money Bills are rejected having been passed in the House on two successive sessions having been sent to the Senate in each of the sessions one month before the end of the session. The Bill will be sent to the Governor General for assent provided that: Six months have not elapsed before
the date on which the bill passed in the House in the first session and the date on which it is passed by the house in the second session, etc., etc. These restrictions highlight the pre-eminence of the democratically elected House of Assembly over the appointed members of Parliament.”
Under Publications the only Ministers Statement included is the aforementioned note from the Speaker, who is not a Minister, and nothing else. Under Hansards, the last to be included is from 2012. The Feedback page appears empty and the Blog was last updated in 2012 when it sought the electorate’s views on VAT that was to be introduced in October of that year. Somewhat hilariously, Prime Minister Budget Addresses from 1998, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 appear. Apparently, all other budgets were not worth mentioning.
Less hilariously, somebody got paid money to produce this site.