New protocols implemented in the House of Assembly in St Vincent and the Grenadines in light of the COVID-19 pandemic created a stir for some members as they came into effect today.
A back and forth over the use of a speaking booth in the Chamber due to the current state of the pandemic ensued between House Speaker Rochelle Forde and member for East Kingstown Fitzgerald Bramble who responded: “There is nobody in this House safer than me. I came in here with a negative PCR test. Why do you want me to go to a booth I am not selling the lotto.”
The speaking booth installed in the House of Assembly in St Vincent and the Grenadines
At today’s sitting, Speaker of the House Rochelle Forde announced that a speaking booth had now been installed in the Chamber for members to use to make contributions.
She said all unvaccinated members or members who have not revealed their vaccination status regardless of the length of their contribution are required to use the speaking booth and be doubled masked.
Vaccinated members can make their contribution from their respective seats and are permitted to use a face mask for the duration of the contribution if so desired.
Members who are not making a contribution are to wear a face mask at all times.
Unvaccinated members or those who have not declared their vaccination status will be required to be double-masked at all times in the Chamber.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves indicated that all members on his side of the House are vaccinated while Opposition leader Godwin Friday suggested it was a name and shame exercise.
As the proceedings commenced, Opposition Senator Israel Bruce was the first to be cautioned by the House Speaker to use the speaking booth to which he held up a document which he said stated that he was COVID negative.
Opposition Senator Israel Bruce in the House of Assembly in SVG.
Bruce started saying: “Madame speaker as a COVID negative member of this House. We are expected to disregard any laws that are passed in this country that are unconstitutional and goes against our rights.”
He was shut down by the Speaker of House and advised to follow the protocols.
Another Opposition member who was advised to use the speaking booth said he came to do his work and did not expect to be treated as a second-class member of the House.
During his turn, the Member for South Leeward, Nigel Stephenson, who had three questions on the order paper and was also directed to use the speaking booth, remained silent and sat still when called upon to do so.
The House Speaker at one point had to ask his colleagues if he was feeling well.