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Camille: All mechanisms in Parliamentary Standing Orders remain intact, despite Opposition complaints

“[…] Let me also point out that even though because of the Covid-19 restrictions the speaking time has been reduced, we have not removed any of the mechanisms provided in the Parliamentary Standing Orders—whether it be Questions, Motions, Privileges and the Standing Orders themselves—that regulate the operation of the Parliament. 

“The only changes were the reduction in speaking time for members and the reduction in the number of members who may sit in the Chamber, except when a vote is called and there is a division and each member’s ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ must be registered for the record…”

In the following press statement, Leader of the House Camille Robinson-Regis MP responds to complaints by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the UNC is denied necessary parliamentary time to speak on pertinent issues:

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and UNC Senator and PRO Anita Haynes.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament)

It is imperative that, in my capacity as Leader of the House, I refute the misinformation being peddled to the public by the Leader of the Opposition. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the advisors to the Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar are not connected with reality and clearly lack basic knowledge about the functions of Parliament.

I wish to remind the Opposition leader and the opposition of what good governance is and how the parliamentary system works for both the Opposition and the Government.

In the UNC’s virtual forum held on 29th March 2021, Mrs Persad-Bissessar made patently erroneous claims that the Opposition is given little parliamentary time to speak on issues and further indicated that the UNC will continue to use No Confidence Motions to discuss issues that they deem fit.

I take this opportunity to assist the Opposition leader’s foggy recollection and to remind her that in the 11th Parliament there were:

Photo: Tim Gopeesingh, former MP for Caroni East.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament)
  • 876 oral questions on notice, 166 written questions, 632 urgent questions and 514 Prime Minister’s Questions, all of which were answered by the government;
  • 37 matters were raised and allowed for debate on the adjournment;
  • 101 committees including Joint Select Committees and Sessional Committees of the
  • Parliament, several chaired by the Opposition that held a total of 652 meetings—where opposition MP’s had ample time to let their voices be heard.

To date, in the 12th Parliament there have been:

  • 136 questions on notice, 35 urgent questions and 28 Prime Minister’s Questions;
  • 8 matters were raised and allowed for debate on the adjournment;
  • 25 committees including Joint Select Committee and Sessional Committees of the Parliament several chaired by the Opposition, that have held a total of 99 meetings.

Let me also say that it is utter hogwash for the Opposition leader to claim that there is no real manner in which the Opposition could raise substantive issues. This is an erroneous and misleading fallacy.

Photo: UNC MP Barry Padarath.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament)

Let me also point out that even though because of the Covid-19 restrictions the speaking time has been reduced, we have not removed any of the mechanisms provided in the Parliamentary Standing Orders—whether it be Questions, Motions, Privileges and the Standing Orders themselves—that regulate the operation of the Parliament. 

The only changes were the reduction in speaking time for members and the reduction in the number of members who may sit in the Chamber, except when a vote is called and there is a division and each member’s ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ must be registered for the record.

The implication of what she is saying is that the Parliamentary System is skewed against the Opposition, a position which any truthful observer would recognise holds absolutely no water and is far from the reality as the statistics of the Parliament make very clear.

As has become the norm, it is exceedingly difficult to rely on some of the assertions made by the Opposition. If the Opposition leader wished to use this accusation to obfuscate her inability to lead an effective Opposition in the Parliament, then that is a matter for her and her members to deal with.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2020)

I therefore wish to advise the Opposition leader to not waste her time trying to impute motives to the actions of the prime minister in the House; that is not her role.

Instead she should utilise the UNC’s platform to act in the best interests of the country and not misuse the machinery of No Confidence Motions. The inexperienced MPs will undoubtedly become confused about the difference between political platform and Parliament.

Every No Confidence Motion to date has failed miserably, each one has been frivolous, inane, futile lolly-gagging and the Opposition Leader should stop wasting the precious time of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. 

Instead focus on atoning for the myriad sins of omission and commission that they once foisted on the nation and allow the duly elected government to continue to govern in the best interest of all.

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One comment

  1. This opposition complains just for complaining sake not necessarily because there is any truth to their “perceptions” – anything they can do to reframe the narrative and get the public on their side….fake news or real news…