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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


"History will record 9/13 as one of our darkest moments in the history of the Parliament of St. Lucia."

To folks like Allan, Richard and Rufus, Estaphane – despite having a degree in an economics-related field - is an ineffectual political non-entity simply maintaining numbers within the UWP government. Sometime ago, to facilitate his appointment to the office of the deputy speaker, his position of Minister for Labour and Broadcasting was taken away from him and handed over to Dr Gail Rigobert.

As stupid as they thought he was, he didn’t take it sitting down. He mounted a strong resistance. In the end, it apparently resulted in an impasse yet to be resolved; and that partially explains the atrocious controversy over the non-appointment of a deputy speaker at the Tuesday’s sitting in the House of Assembly.

Although the Leader of the Opposition best presented the legal case for the mandatory appointment of a deputy speaker, it was perhaps Phillip J Pierre that was the hero of the moment. He was fearlessly persistent, exciting, even dramatic to the point where he ventured deep into “enemy’s territory” to convince the speaker about the illegality of her decision not to cause a deputy speaker to be appointed.

But the speaker’s decision was well cooked and irreversible, and neither logic nor persuasion would cause her to review it. So  “Pip” lost the battle (not the war); but he did not lose it in vain. 

When the story is written in the history books, "Pip's" heroism and tenacity will no doubt be etched deeply on that irrational and illegal decision by the speaker as the "silver lining on a dark cloud" of illegality even within the portals of our parliament. "Pip" will be profoundly remembered for standing up like a hero against the infringement of the constitution by the very persons who are vested with the responsibility to protect it.

History will indeed record September 13 (9/13) as one of the darkest moments in the history of the Parliament of St. Lucia.

The Speaker maybe an academic - just as Dr Gail Rigobert is (they both have PhDs); but she took parliamentary democracy to a new low; perhaps even lower than the bar for the "Grynberg" budget debate. 

The frontline hardcore (Kenny, Phillip and Dalson) of the parliamentary opposition did not let her go scot-free, each employing different angles to convince her that she was wrong. They made her look like a novice in the implementation of simple parliamentary procedure.

But the moment belonged to Pip when he, at a crucial strategic moment, “smartly”  nominated the member for Choiseul to the position of Deputy Speaker.That was a classic shot designed to make a point to the speaker: "you want to pursue illegality, here is "Mr Illegality" himself as a candidate for deputy speaker".

It was clear that “Pip” knew exactly what he was doing. He knew very well that ministers and parliamentary secretaries were disqualified from nomination to Deputy Speaker. He also knew that it would be “out of order” for the speaker’s to rule "in her own deliberate judgment" and "of her own knowledge" that Bousquet was a Minister. So, she fell headlong into the quagmire.

It is elementary parliamentary protocol that it devolved on the Prime Minister to advise the Speaker on the unavailability of Bousquet (or any other UWP Minister) for the Deputy Speaker position upon which knowledge she would rule. But she violated elementary protocol and went full speed ahead with a pre-emptive strike at Phillip Pierre's recommendation, as if she was also the Governor General who confirmed ministerial appointments. 

Pip’s nomination of Rufus for Deputy Speaker was not only a clever strategy; it also further emphasized the folly of the speaker’s decision not to proceed to fill in that vacancy.

Finally, the Speaker's rationalization for her folly (that she sought regional advice on the matter) opened a new Pandora Box of myth. Suffice it to say, she was roundly misguided by that advisory "regional authority", anyway. 

It was a pity that she had to go so far and wide across the region for advice thereon when a constitutional legend from the region  - former lecturer and Head of the Teaching Department, Law Faculty (UWI) and also the General counsel for CARICOM - was right there sitting in the Chamber with her.

Let’s wait and see what the implications will be.

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