Parliament gets new and old faces!

The First Session of the Tenth Parliament of St Lucia was officially opened on Thursday January 5, 2012 at House of Parliament in the city of Castries but not before the appointment of Dr Desmond long as the Deputy Speaker of the House and the first meeting of the Senate. The Senate Leader for the government, Victor Philip La Corbiniere nominated Claudius Francis as the President of the Senate—the appointment was seconded by the Senate Leader for the Opposition, Lenard Montoute after which all of the senators were sworn in officially. This was the first time Francis was appointed as a senator and of course the newly elected President was more than elated and overwhelmed to say the least.
“It’s a very humbling experience and you think about those things and dream about them perhaps and when they actually bear fruits, you’re almost overwhelmed,” said Francis.
The new President in addressing the gathering said he expected heated debate among members and was willing to allow some flexibility and latitude, but had some words of caution for the newly sworn in Senators.
“Leader of Government Business Senator La Corbiniere, Leader of the Opposition Business Senator Montoute, in the two of you we have individuals of prior experience in this chamber. We also have one other Senator from that other place. I will look toward you for support and guidance and I ask that you give me your support at all times. There will be vigorous debate in here. The chair will at all times allow debate as much elasticity as possible but it will be done with honour and decorum so I thank all members and look forward to your support.”
Dr Stephen King and hotelier Berthia Parle were the only two independent senators elected out of which the new president nominated Berthia Parle as the Vice-President of the Senate. “I’m excited, overwhelmed, actually very surprised but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Parle. She added that there is much work ahead for her and the senators and coming new as a senator, she would have to learn much about the Standing Orders of the Senate and “whatever is needed to learn to ensure that my work is done in the most efficient manner.” Other senators sworn in on Thursday morning included James Fletcher, Stanley Felix, Debra Tobierre, Ubaldus Raymond and Ezekiel Joseph.
The official opening of the First Session of Parliament began with the usual Marching Ceremony to mark the arrival of the Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy. In her opening address to a Joint Sitting of Parliament, the Governor General stated that the timing of the General Election has caused the First Session of the Tenth Parliament to be short as was previously indicated by the prime minister a few weeks ago. She added that Parliament will once again meet in a few months for the presentation of the Budget.
However, she went on to highlight a few plans and programmes that the new government will implement during their tenure in office. Among the plans, the government has decided to construct a memorial on the site of the tragedy which occurred in Choiseul on November 10, 2011. “The families of the victims need to know that this nation share their loss both in word and in deed,” she said. At that point, there was utter silence as despair stuck the faces of the parliamentarians on either side.
On the advice of the prime minister, the Governor General indicated that she will reactivate Part 2 and in particular, section 15 of the National Honors and Awards Act, Cap.17.08 of the revised laws of St Lucia to establish a National Heroes Commission for the purpose of identifying and honoring heroes. She emphasized the need to “end some of the unnecessary rancor, pettiness and divisiveness that has characterized” the political culture in St Lucia. Through legislature, the GG indicated that the government will establish Constituency Councils throughout the island as a first step to replacing the current
system of Local Government with the positions of Chairpersons of the
towns of Gros Islet, Castries, Vieux Fort and Soufriere “elevated and the holders conferred with the status of Mayor.”
Many local businesses rejoiced at the announcement of plans to remove all penalties and interest on outstanding tax liabilities while making provision for settlement within a specified time.
There was a loud applause and the first and only during the entire
speech when the Governor General stated that the new government intends to make it possible for citizens and businesses to use all major credit and debit cards
to pay for government services.                         “There will be many benefits from this initiative,” she said, “but two immediately stand out: first of all, it will provide greater convenience for the users of public services . . . secondly, it will significantly reduce the potential for fraudulent transactions.”
As mentioned in the prime minister’s address at the swearing in ceremony held last year, the Governor General announced the implementation of a Ministerial Code of Conduct that will set out parameters within which government ministers must operate. Furthermore, according to the GG, the government will adopt a Manual of Cabinet Procedures that will clearly define modalities for the conduct of the business of Cabinet.
The STAR spoke with the Leader of the Opposition, Stephenson King outside of parliament who had this to say: “As you heard the Governor General’s speech which was quite philosophical, a mention was made of changes to be made in the manner in which the office of the Leader of the Opposition is treated. As I said earlier, these are no favours, these are existing policies that are being polished and highlighted. I will abide by the existing policies. I do not need favours extended
to me as leader of the opposition.”

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