The Opposition People’s United Party presented its full compliments of elected representatives for today’s House meeting in Belmopan. But the PUP members were not a happy group today. On Thursday the party issued a statement condemning their late notification of today’s sitting and the lack of sufficient time to submit questions to be answered on the floor of the House by Ministers. Leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca brought his party’s concerns to the attention of the Speaker of the House for resolution this morning.
FRANCIS FONSECA, Leader of the Opposition (PUP)
“Mr. Speaker with your permission before we proceed with the orders of the day there are two matters that we on this side of the house would wish to seek clarification from you. The first is on what basis Mr. Speaker is this meeting being designated a special sitting. According to the standing orders special sitting or meeting held on a date and time other than Friday at 10 AM or meetings held within the recess period established on the standing order eleven. We are not in such a recess period, that is the first issue Mr. Speaker we would seek your clarification of. The second issue Mr. Speaker is as you are aware members on this side of the house had proposed some ten questions for ministers for the house meeting of June 29th, 2012. At time you had indicated Mr. Speaker that the questions cannot be allowed for that meeting because they have been received late and while we did not agree we respected that decision with the legitimate expectation that those questions would then be traverse to a later meeting, sitting of the house as has always been the practice. Again today we come here and those questions which involved issues of critical importance to those we represent and indeed we believe to the Belizean people do not forma part of the agenda. We Mr. Speaker will respectfully ask that those questions be put on the agenda for today’s meeting and that you direct relevant minister to answer those questions. Mr. Speaker we got notice of this meeting on July 24th and we got an agenda really bare bones agenda on July 25th and did not receive any draft bills until we arrive here. In fact I just got some of the draft bills this morning. Respectfully Mr. Speaker we believe that this make a mockery of our democracy and it is a very serious disrespect to the fourteen elected representatives on this side of the house. We view this as an on going pattern of disrespect and obvious effort to frustrate the asking of tough questions to ministers and really to stifle the debate on bills of national importance so we will respectfully ask Mr. Speaker that you clarify these matter and ensure that those of us on this side of the house are treated with respect and in accordance with the standing orders.”
Before the Speaker could make a ruling on the issue, Prime Minister Dean Barrow rose to explain that as per the standing orders, there was nothing underhanded in the calling of today’ s meeting.
DEAN BARROW, Prime Minister of Belize (UDP)
“I believe, Mr. Speaker that the Leader of the Opposition is either not reading his stand orders properly or he is misunderstanding what he reads which i suppose amounts to the same thing. Mr. Speaker, as I understand it standing order 11 which deals with the question of the days of meeting says that the house shall meet on Fridays and every adjournment of the house shall be to the next Friday unless the house upon a motion move by a minister member of the standing order committee otherwise decides. The practice as you know Mr. Speaker this is what happened on the last occasion was for a motion to be move that the house adjourn to a date to be fixed by the speaker. So there is no requirement at all certainly in the context of the standing orders for any specify notice period to be given. As a matter of protocol the effort is made when the government request of the speaker that a meeting be summoned, that a meeting be convened an effort is made to do this in sufficient time so that that notice can go out certainly at least a week in advance of the day on which the meeting will be fixed but there are – the point to be made is that there is no such requirement as to a minimum notice period and the point to be made is that while it makes every practical sense for us to ask for a meeting on the basis of an ability to give at least a week notice there are exigent circumstances. In this particular case Mr. Speaker, every bill that is on the agenda is a bill only to be introduced, only for first reading. The silly accusation, allegation made by the opposition by the way of a press release that they are expected to come here and debate bills that they only get sight of when they get into the house preceding is nonsensical. All that we’re asking is leave to introduce these bills, they will then have two or three or four weeks, a month or so to digest the bill before we come back for debate and the reason we are introducing these bills today and we did not give as much notice for the house meeting as we would normally do is because there is a time line, there is a deadline involved. We have a matrix of obligation that we contracted with the Inter-American Development Bank in return for the bank’s assistance with our restructuring exercise, the exercise, a design to restructure that horrible super bond that those on the other side saddle the country with. One the question of questions Mr. Speaker, again if they would only read the blinking blessed standing orders. Questions? There is nothing that says Mr. Speaker that questions have to be for oral answers. Mr. Speaker, going forward, it is true that if the notice of a meeting is short noticed the questions can’t be asked for that meeting in an oral form if they on that side only decide to ask the questions when they get notice of the meeting but there is no requirement of that. You can put down your questions from tomorrow for the next session and as you go along on both questions you can put that there is nothing that says you have to wait until you get notice of the meeting. So please Mr. Speaker as I said we would all be bound by what you have to say but I had to point out there are trying to make accusations against us as though we are trying to frustrate the democratic objects of the standing orders and of the arrangements for the conduct of business in this house. It is absolutely not true and don’t take your own incompetence and wrong headedness and make it a platform for criticism of those of us on this side of the house. Thank you Mr. Speaker.”
Following the presentation by the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House Michael Peyrifitte ruled that the Standing Orders were not being contravened and that today’s meeting would proceed as planned.<< Read other news