St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): “I say that categorically, that I have conducted the House as transparent and fairly and in strict accordance with the standing order of the National Assembly.”
Speaker Michael Perkins, rejecting allegation from MP Marcella Liburd, that he is biased against and hostile to the parliamentary opposition.
The parliamentarian made reference to Opposition Leader Denzil Douglas not being allowed to speak to the Chinese national Ren Biao controversy during debate on the immigration amendment bill last Tuesday, as one example of the Speaker’s alleged pro-government stance in the House.
“Dr. Douglas couldn’t continue to speak about the Chinese, however, later when Dr. Harris spoke he allowed Dr. Harris to speak about the Chinese matter so clearly the ruling was only for one side" MP Liburd said.
Speaker Perkins in an interview with WINN FM, explained why his decision on the Ren Biao issue.
“My position was that I would not allow the member to get into any specifics to do with the matter of the Chinese national and matters to do with Interpol and the government of China. I did not have anything before me to substantiate what the member for number 6 Dr Douglas was saying. I would have to review the records of the House because I am not aware that I allowed the Prime Minister who was the mover of the bill to speak about this Chinese national and specifics of the case. I do recall in his wrap up the Prime Minister may have said something about Chinese in a passing comment, but I certainly was not going to allow neither the Prime Minister or anyone else to get into any specifics to do with the Chinese national and the things that were making the rounds in the media. So I’m willing to review that part of it but I’m pretty certain I did not allow one member to not speak about that particular issue and allowed another member to, I am pretty certain of that.”
The opposition also took issue with Speaker Perkins for the removal from the parliament of MP Konris Maynard for what the Speaker ruled as disorderly behavior.
According to MP Liburd, that is a clear indication of the Speaker attempting to shield the government side from opposition criticism.
"The Speaker comes in to ensure that the opposition does not criticize the government in any way. His job is to protect the government from any criticism and so stifle the opposition. We are saying that this injustice cannot really continue, parliament is supposed to be the bastion of our democracy and we must be free to oppose the government. People voted for us, we are representing our constituents and the country and we must be heard.”
However Speaker Perkins says he took appropriate action in relation to the Konris Maynard matter.
“I warned the honourable member that he was not going to be allowed to raise an order at that point to what the presenter at the time was saying, he stood, I asked him to take his seat, he stood again and remained standing I’m sure for more than a minute and when I thought that I had had enough of that level of disrespect being shown to the chair, well I simply used the authority vested in me and in particular under section 49.2, if I found a member to be grossly disorderly once I find that, which I did, I simply ask them to leave parliament for the rest of the day.”
WINN FM asked Mr. Perkins how he responds to the observation that members of the opposition have been asked to leave the House but no government member has.
“Each and every time I have been forced to act in terms of directing members to leave the House and in all instances, admittedly I think there have been three occasions, each and every instance had to do with a member disrespecting and being totally out of order. As a matter of fact the standing order refers to it as once you are grossly disorderly. The Speaker is the one who will make that decision as to the level of disorder. I can ask the general public at large to provide me an instance or speak to an instance where a member of the government benches has been disrespectful or out of order in the national assembly. We have to take each case on its merit we cannot generalize anything. I have had occasions where I have asked members of the government bench to withdraw statements, to be careful, to get back on point but I must say I will not shy away from saying even though I may be criticized as being siding with the government, because that is a criticism I must accept that, I must say that on no occasion have I seen a member on the government bench showing disrespect to me as the chair, as the presiding officer, I have not seen it, so it is what it is.”