(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
Deputy Premier and Government Minister, Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering in a surprise move this afternoon, September 20, said that it is an abuse of privilege to allow the Speaker of the House, Hon. Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe, to continue to preside over the House of Assembly sittings, while her name has been floated in the media as a candidate for the upcoming elections. Election is constitutionally due by June 2019.
Dr Pickering said that he takes the media reports as facts that Moses-Scatliffe is running for political office under the governing National Democratic Party (NDP) - the party that he helped to form and under which he became a member of the House of Assembly. The party new chairman is Hon. Myron Walwyn, Minister of Education and Culture.
He said that as a senior member of Parliament he feels it is fit for him to bring up the matter. He said that while from research he understands that it is not legally wrong for the Speaker to sit, it brings up the question of impartiality.
“…In this present context I don’t see how, in my personal point of view, it cannot be misconstrue as abuse of privilege to be putting oneself as a candidate in upcoming elections and sitting in the position of such authority… Causing great unfair advantage, but it may question the whole processes within the House and that in itself to me is an abuse of privilege,” he said.
He added, “My responsibility as a senior member is to raise this issue...We cannot start fooling around with the institutions that build democracy, it’s like fooling around with the judiciary.”
He said that, in other parts of the Caribbean it is different because the Speaker is usually an elected member and therefore, chosen from among the members.
“But in our context and that is why I referenced the different pieces of legislation and writings starting with our Standard Orders, our Constitution, to say that I couldn’t find any precedence…From where I sit as one of the senior member of this House, somebody who have travelled far and wide attending parliamentary meetings and participating in various parliamentary discussion. To me, my personal opinion and in my contribution, it is a situation that is really to create more question than answers for the House.”
Dr Pickering added, “and it begs the question, if the sitting Speaker can in fact be impartial. I am fully minded that the sitting Speaker is nominated from among the elected Members of the House, majority party.”
The senior member of the NDP said that, “I have never seen any precedence where the sitting Speaker is announced as a candidate in upcoming election and continues to sit as the Speaker, that is where my problem lies.”
He said that he is totally uncomfortable with the situation.
“…I don’t see any legal writing that I have read, that says there is anything legally wrong with, but understanding that Parliament is one of the institutions of the bedrock of the BVI’s democracy…It raises the question and it is in that context I have my discomfort, that I feel uncomfortable that we are in uncharted waters. Certainly, where I sit understanding Parliamentary practices and procedures having a cloud hanging over HOA, can in no way do justice to our territory,” he said.
Dr Pickering continued, “so I want to lend my voice to whoever else, to say publicly I am not comfortable with it, unless in this living context the sitting Speaker is about to denounce the fact that it is not so and it is being publicized against her wishes, it stands as a fact because it is not being refuted and that’s where I stand on the issue.”
Following Dr Pickering’s comments, the Speaker inquired from the Attorney General Baba Aziz if he had anything to add at the time and he replied, “not at this point in time.”