Speaker has wide range in authority and discretion in relation to standing orders, says honourable Perkins

Basseterre, St. Kitts, June 12, 2017 (SKNIS): On a recent edition of “Working for You,” (June 07) it was noted that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Anthony Michael Perkins, has not been biased in his rulings referring to members being ejected from the House and his rulings in unparliamentary and disrespectful actions towards the Chair.

Honourable Perkins said that parliament is governed by a set of rules, which are rooted in law. These rules are known as Standing Orders. The standing orders are a part of a body of law called the National Assembly Elections Act.

“[These are laws] in which, in my opinion, are set out in a very clear manner,” he said. “The speaker has quite a wide range in authority and discretion through those rules. That is a point that must be understood and accepted by one and all.”

The speaker explained that once he was elevated to his position, he is always mindful that his rulings must be consistent or in line with the Standing Orders.

“So, even though I’ve been hearing the criticism that my rulings are being favourable to the government side, it is the opposition members who seem to be getting the brunt of my rulings; the point must be made, and this is a very important point in my opinion, I can only rule on an event that happened at the time; a member saying something, a member doing something,” he explained. “So, I rule based on a specific event and if it’s a case that the event is such that or the events that have taken place so far have resulted in only the opposition members being booted out of parliament. So be it.”

Speaker Perkins has called for the incidences not to be generalised.

“We cannot say only the opposition has been thrown out of parliament. We must say ‘for what reason, what happened at that time’, he said. “So far, to the best of my knowledge, three members have been asked to leave parliament, Honourable Nigel Carty, Honourable Denzil Douglas and Honourable Konris Maynard. In each instance it was for gross disorder in parliament, gross disorderly behaviour, which is very specific and well defined in the standing orders.”

Only the speaker has the call as to what he constitutes as gross disorder, said Speaker Perkins.

“In each instance, I was of the view that their behaviour was grossly disorderly,” said Honourable Perkins. “So, that was a decision I made. So, I would never accept the criticism that only the opposition has been thrown out of parliament. We have to look at each case.”

“Any member that has been seen as disorderly even if it the prime minister, they will be asked to leave, explained the speaker, noting that everyone is equal in the chambers.

“In saying that, I challenge the general public, I challenge the media, if they can think of any instance where a member of the government bench, his or her behaviour was tantamount to gross disorder, I am willing to discuss it, but I cannot relate to any incident in parliament where a member of the government bench fell into that category,” he said. “I cannot relate to any member being disrespectful to me. I must make that point. So, we cannot generalize things.”