The Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) says it will be attending the first sitting of the ninth parliament on Friday although five questions and two motions submitted to the House of Assembly were denied.
Leader of the Opposition, Lennox Linton said at a press conference at the Prevost Cinemal on Wednesday all its questions and motions were submitted on time, only to be informed that they will not be allowed.
According to Linton, the two motions that the UWP wanted to put forward are a review of the Standing Orders of the House of Assembly and parliament’s reaction to secure free and fair elections through electoral reform.
The questions the UWP wanted to ask parliament had to do with an update on Dominica’s Petro Caribe debt, the alleged racketeering of visas and work permits, the recent development in the Citizenship by Investment Program, a clarification and the government’s position on Bitcoin, and an update on the cost of living grants to senior citizens over 70 which, he said, was provided for in the 2014-2015 budget.
“These are serious questions,” Linton said.
When asked whether he believes that the denial is a move meant to frustrate the Opposition in Parliament, he responded, “I don’t know.”
“We don’t like what we see and so we are raising the issue,” he said, adding that after the UWP goes to parliament it will be better able to formulate an opinion on whether the party is being frustrated or not.
The following is the reason the two motions and questions were denied, according to a letter sent to Linton by the Clerk of the House of Assembly on February 9:
“I am directed to inform you that due to the established custom and practice of the House of Assembly of the Commonwealth of Dominica, your questions and private member motions submitted for the first meeting of the first session of the ninth Parliament shall not be included on the paper. This is because at a first sitting of a new session and a first meeting after a general election these two items are not taken.”
In response Linton wrote to the clerk, “This established custom and practice of the House to which you refer, is no more than a convenience appropriated unto itself by the government side and cannot supersede the Standing Orders of the House especially where the provisions of these orders are specifically required to facilitate the legitimate business of Members of the House.”
He argued, in his response, that the established custom and practice that is being referred to has been to use Standing Order 16 (q) Public Business selectively for the purpose of facilitating government business only when that very same Standing Order clearly provides for private member’s business as well.
He also mentioned that it has been the “established custom and practice” for the government side to “pick and choose” items from Standing Order 16 which suit its agenda for these first meetings, while regularly excluding the few items which allow the Opposition side to present matters for the consideration of the House.
Linton pointed out that the members of government can make statements and present papers, bills and motions at the first sitting of a new parliamentary term, and it is only fair for the Opposition to do the same.
“It is only fair and just that when members of the Opposition have questions and motions, then in accordance with the Standing orders of the House, those questions and motions must be taken in the public interest of proper parliamentary conduct and procedure,” he said.
Linton stated that after giving the reasons for the motions and questions to be included, the Order Paper was received but they were not on the list.
He said he has since written back asking for an amendment to the Order Paper.