A motion of no confidence in Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, was defeated in Parliament on Wednesday.
The motion was brought by Opposition Leader Lennox Linton, who accused Skerrit of mismanaging the economy.
However, drama erupted in the in the House when Linton was presenting the motion after House Speaker, Alix Boyd-Knights accused him of imputing improper motive.
The motion was eventually brought to a vote and soundly defeated with members voting along party lines with 14 nos and one abstention.
No member of the Opposition voted in favor of the motion. Linton did not vote.
The drama began when Linton pointed out that the economy was suffering and nothing was happening and how the matter was being handled by Skerrit.
“In its attempt to deal with these issues, Madam Speaker, we’ve seen the Prime Minister on all of the show,” he said. “We’ve seen the Prime Minister appointing all sorts of ambassadors all over the world, giving the impression that what he is really doing is trying to expand the economic opportunity, trying to grow the pie in Dominica so that more people can benefit. In fact what he ended up with is a whole series of questionable characters, hurting the image of Dominica in the international community, while the Prime Minister hands them out diplomatic passports, he hands them diplomatic privileges of immunity, etc to do whatever they want to do with diplomatic rank and diplomatic status. We see no benefit, no economic benefit ….”
Linton was interrupted here by the Speaker.
“I just need to let you know that when you impute improper motive, it is wrong and it is against the rules of the House,” she said.
Linton interjected, “You are part of the debate now, Madam Speaker?”
This did not go down well with Boyd-Knights.
“Excuse me?” she shot back.
“I just asked if you are part of the debate,” Linton stated.
“I find your question very rude,” the Speaker noted but Linton interjected and said, “Oh yes, I find your intervention very out of order.”
“I am telling you, you will listen to me because that is what I am here for,” the Speaker responded. “Ok. And just because you think that you are having your day, doesn’t mean that ….”
“What day you are talking about?” Linton queried. “Having what day?”
“I am telling you, you have imputed improper motive, you are to cease and desist,” Boyd-Knights responded. “You know very well what you have said and you know very well because you are a wise person, you are an intelligent person and I think you know very well when you are imputing improper motive and I am telling you the rules say you can’t do it. I am the one that has to advise the House and I will tell you what standing order because I just want you to refer to two particular standing orders, which actually say that it is the Speaker who has to inform the House when it goes amiss, Ok?”
Boyd-Knights went on to refer to standing order 86, one and two and standing order 49.
“Please apprise yourself to see that when I intervene, as these two rules tell me to do, it is rude of you to suggest that I am getting into the debate,” she told Linton. “You are being absolutely rude and out of place and you should be made aware of that.”
She suggested that Linton continue his presentation.
“Madam Speaker, I was about to inquire whether that was you or whether that was the demon in you but I….” Linton started. He was interrupted by Boyd-Knights.
“Again, I am going to tell you, you apologize to the chair before you say one other word,” she told Linton.
“Madam Speaker, you sat in the honorable chair and said to the House of Assembly that the demon in you is ordering a member to sit down,” Linton stated, referring to a previous parliamentary sitting. “You said that, not me. What is your beef right now? You said you have a demon in you that causing you to ask somebody else to sit down. I am asking you now whether the demon in you is operating or whether it’s you, that is all I am asking. And I am not going to apologize for it. Those are your words, I am not apologizing for it.”
Eventually, the Speaker said that it appeared Linton had concluded his motion.
“The member has not concluded; the member would like to continue,” Linton responded. “But you keep interrupting the member in a very ad hoc manner. I don’t understand what these interventions are all about. Can I continue Madam Speaker?”
But Boyd-Knights would hear none of it with Linton insisting he is not apologizing for words he said she used in the House.
From there the proceedings descended into chaos until attorney general, Levi Peter, stood on a point of order.
He pointed to standing order 50 subsection 5 and 3.
“If a member shows disregard for the chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and willingfully obstructing the business of the House or otherwise, the Speaker or the chairman shall direct the attention of members to the incident and mentioning by name the member concerned,” he said. “Whenever a member has been so named by the chairman, then …you can read the rest yourselves.”
However, the Speaker insisted that she has the general authority under House standing orders to conduct the business of the House.
“I also pointed him to standing order 49 where the Speaker of the House shall be responsible for the observance of rules of the House,” she stated. “The member then suggested that I have a demon in me because I said it at some other point that it is ok for him to say so. What the member does not realize is that I was responding to something that one on his side said and he now cannot say that I have a demon in me, which is exactly what he said. And I think I am within my rights, both as Speaker and as a member of parliament to point out to him that he is using unparliamentary language towards me and he was rude to suggest that I have a demon in me and I called on him to apologize and I am further stating when he apologizes, he can continue. If he is not willing to continue then can the next member rise to support his motion.”
She continued, “the member must realize that there is a big difference between being in front of a console and being in parliament. There’s a big difference and I don’t think he has ever taken note of that.”
Linton then asked whether he was going to be allowed to conclude or continue his motion.
“As soon as you apologize,” Boyd-Knights said.
“No, well, I am not apologizing,” Linton stated.
“Oh well, will the next person stand to speak?” she responded. “Member you just cannot be rude to the chair like this. You know people are not only hearing, they are seeing. And this is manifestly wrong of you.”
But Linton refused to apologize and the Speaker asked for other members to speak, however, none did.
Member for Portsmouth Ian Douglas then asked for a divisional vote which means that each member would have to show their hand by declaring their individual position to the Clerk.
Since no other member decided to speak on the matter, Boyd-Knights said she had no choice but to go ahead call the motion to the House.
Only elected members were allowed to vote and the final result was 14 against the motion on the government’s side. Members of the opposition did not vote in the matter, however there was one abstention.