What yesterday morning transpired in the House was as predictable as a Philip J. Pierre’s response to questions about Kenny Anthony’s stewardship as finance minister in the time of Rochamel and Grynberg: “I don’t know!”
Among those who still care about meetings of parliament, enough to be aware of yesterday’s session, there couldn’t have been many who did not expect the reluctant leader of the opposition to challenge the Speaker, if she ruled that the scheduled meeting could go on without a deputy.
Also expected were the ho-hum agreeable echoes from the MP for East Castries. In any event, it was he who opened the morning’s circus, following the Speaker’s invitation to the unresponsive House to nominate a replacement for Marcus Nicholas, an independent MP since his resignation from the ruling party.
Little of what Pierre offered had anything to do with the Speaker’s earlier ruling that it was evidently not convenient for the House to elect a new deputy. Obviously in campaign mode, the East Castries representative inquired about the reason the government side had found it inconvenient yesterday morning to nominate a replacement for Marcus Nicholas, then answered his own question. Along the way, he threw the usual Labour epithets at his colleagues on the government side, including the darkest motives for their refusal to step down to accommodate the election of a new deputy Speaker. Meanwhile, he neglected to mention why it was not convenient for his own side to offer up a candidate for the vacant post.
His efforts having gone nowhere, as far as the Speaker and the rest of the House were concerned, Pierre’s leader pathetically attempted a rescue operation. Sounding every bit like a village preacher, he pompously decided that the important issue centered on what he considered the proper interpretation of a line from the Constitution, at Section 36: that if the office of Deputy Speaker falls vacant any time before the dissolution of parliament, “the House shall as soon as convenient elect another member of the House to that office.”
As one observed the opposition leader’s ham-fisted performance, the thought that repeated itself went something like this: “If he knows so much about the Constitution, then how to explain the several unconstitutional laws enacted in his time? If, as he claims, he understands the Constitution better than anyone else, then how to explain Rochamel and Grynberg and the apparent usurpation of the governor general’s authority?”
The Speaker remained unimpressed. Not even the normally boisterous MPs on the other side saw the need to challenge the leader of the opposition’s interpretation of “as soon as convenient.” After all, the Constitution also speaks unambiguously of actions to be taken immediately, as soon as possible, and as soon as practicable. What is so difficult about those words? I daresay their meaning is clear. As clear as “as soon as is convenient.” Convenient to whom? The whole parliament, by the Speaker’s quite understandable reasoning, if not by the opposition’s arcane dictionary.
In the end the Speaker over-generously permitted out-of-order repetitive protestations that recalled the heyday of Speaker St Clair Daniel. In his day Kenny and Company would’ve been shown the door for contemptuous House misbehavior after a ruling from the chair. The current Speaker actually allowed the SLP MPs to stand while she was speaking. That never would’ve happened in Daniel’s time in the lion’s den. But then, perhaps this Speaker knew she would not have to tolerate for long the demonstrated unparliamentary shenanigans. After the wannabe George Odlums had stood ignored for several minutes, they strode out as expected, on the heels of their leader-for-life. Ah, but Pierre was not yet quite finished. Possibly concerned about his mousey image, and despite the Speaker’s protests, he squeaked repetitiously for several uncomfortable minutes before fizzling out.
He picked up his Odlum-style purse and, like Elvis, left the building.