The views expressed are not those of ANN but those of the writer
Today the NDP brought a private members’ motion to Parliament. The motion sort to re-establish public confidence in the electoral process to deliver free and fair elections, which is vital to democracy and the electoral system in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Some serious irregularities have come to light over the years, most recently in the 2015 general elections the conduct of which has shaken public confidence.
Today in Parliament [May 17, 2019], Speaker of the House, Jomo Thomas, was made to look like a sniveling fool once more, by the mal-manipulation of Parliamentary practice by prime minister Dr ralph gonsalves. Most Vincentians will remember how Thomas was fooled by gonsalves in 2018 when gonsalves convinced Thomas that he could take over a no-confidence procedure in Parliament and turn it into a confidence procedure. Thomas, therefore, disallowed debate on the no-confidence motion. But allowed government members to amend the motion, changing it into a motion of confidence. Government members then debated and passed the motion in the absence of opposition members, who stayed away in protest.
Following that, Thomas over the next few days said that while out jogging it came to him that he had made a mistake in accepting the gonsalves argument to change the motion from no-confidence to one of confidence.
Unfortunately, when the Speaker decides by way of a ruling it is non-reversible by the speaker, his decision is final and unchallengeable. gonsalves appeared to make an absolute fool of Thomas, and in doing so, threw him under the bus. But did he, or was Thomas willing to go along with gonsalves and use parliament on that day to stage a play, with gonsalves and Thomas the star actors? I, for one, am willing to consider a conspiracy theory in the matter. Because to wrongly allow gonsalves to change a motion on a matter once may be a mistake, to make the same mistake again is either an action of an idiot or something naughty has gone down. Jomo Thomas should also know it’s not what’s true or false; it’s a matter of perception by the public.
What kind of a person is gonsalves that he can come to Parliament and makeup stories that undermine Parliamentary Democracy? Make arguments that when examined are blatantly wrong, and gonsalves knew that at the time that he presented the arguments? Can it be right that any parliamentary representative, let alone the prime minister, can try and convince parliament, the Vincentian people that wrong is right? Surely, knowingly making misleading statements and arguing that wrong is right must be a severe abuse of parliament.
This behavior is a direct page out of the Maduro playbook in Venezuela.
The leader of the ULP, who is also the prime minister of the Vincentian government, is a communist. Jomo Thomas is a communist; the other ULP members don’t know themselves what they are, some perhaps are latent commies others are simply willing to sell their souls to these scurrilous behavior patterns in parliament. The problem is, there is always a joining at the hip with communists, regardless of if they like each other or not, solidarity, supporting each other in whatever way possible.
The Constitution is ignored, and Democracy is damaged by not just that but is damaged by the actions that we now see of misleading parliament into accepting wrong in place of right. Jomo Thomas is either stupid and uninformed, or he is acting in the way expected of communists to follow the path of solidarity.
However, the government has employed several manoeuvres’ to avoid the debate of opposition motions in the past, including having government senators table private motions.
Today in Parliament was Opposition day. Private members’ motions take precedence during today’s meeting of Parliament – the third for the year. The opposition can bring Parliament a Bill or motion for debate and consideration without being directly countermanded of parliamentary time taken away from them by the government side. But gonsalves took over; he told the opposition that they had four hours to discuss and debate the motion that the NDP brought to improve the Representation of the People Act. gonsalves had already written out a series of amendments that he had made to the motion wording. He proposed presenting what he wanted to be inserted but refused to say what he was going to want to be removed. He implied he would not tell them what he wanted to be taken out until they agreed to what he wanted to be put in. The opposition refused, and gonsalves said then there is no deal. During this time, Thomas did his best to support gonsalves, but he was also quite obviously out of his depth regarding controlling the whole matter. Thomas appeared flustered at times and seemed unsure of how to handle the matter. Perhaps he is a great actor or is genuinely stupid, perhaps both.
I am not sure that gonsalves had the right to make one-sided amendments to the motion before it was debated. In the end, it became quite obvious that all the arguments and banter was designed to use up the four hours gonsalves had allowed, and the matter was timed out amid this very nasty all-around procedure. Top and bottom of it all Jomo Thomas let all this happen and did not take control properly of the procedure. As I previously said, perhaps because he does not know or is stupid, or even both. But the stink from the Chamber could be smelt all over Kingstown.
Someone in the government side expected trouble in the Chamber because extra police were placed within the Chamber. Parliament security is run by the Sergeant at Arm; the police should be out in the vestibule until called, not in the Chamber as a clear threat to the NDP. They man-handled and beat up the NDP MP’s once before and caused The Honourable Daniel Cummins to have major surgery on his back. He still has not fully recovered, and it’s possible he never will.
The proposed changes to the Representation of the Peoples Act were designed by the NDP to curb vote cheating; perhaps it was that which the ULP could not deal with, maybe it cuts against the grain.
“There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men.” Ludwig von Mises.
“Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation, and indignation.” Atifete Jahjaga