The Leadership of the United Progressive Party condemns the recent behaviour of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin and the clear bias of House Speaker Sir Gerald Watt – which led to the ejection and subsequent “suspension” of St. Peter MP Asot Michael.
The breaches of the Standing Orders – unparliamentary language, threats/intimidation, imputing improper motives – that took place in the sitting of Thursday, May 18, were ignored or overlooked by Sir Gerald and created an environment that was, at best, hostile to MP Michael and, at worst, a naked abuse of power.
The recent political animus between the prime minister and the St. Peter representative is well known. However, we do not believe that it should be played out in the Lower House – especially not by the Government side, whose members continue to appeal for maturity in the conduct of the People’s business.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that, during the Division called for on the Motion to acquire the Cancer Centre, MP Michael voted with the Government. Unfortunately, the prime minister, in particular, could not elevate his behaviour and – despite the Speaker’s earlier caution – persisted in his distasteful conduct.
Therefore, it is unfortunate and unfair that Sir Gerald then chose to victimize MP Michael for his human response to gross provocation.
The UPP’s Leadership does not condone the remarks made by MP Michael since, clearly, we cannot support blatant disrespect of the Speaker or the House. However, we recognize that the Member had been unreasonably pushed to the limit of his tolerance.
Apart from the Division referred to earlier, the Speaker left no room at any time in that sitting for a “No” vote and declared, in every other instance, that “the Ayes have it” – without the benefit of a count.
Accordingly, it is not known which Members of even the Government Bench voted for the fictional suspension of MP Michael.
We say “fictional” because the Standing Orders governing the naming and suspension of a Member were not followed. The Speaker cannot move the motion; and, so, everything that transpired in that rushed procedure is of no effect.
Accordingly, the UPP distances itself from this unfortunate episode in the history of our Parliament and calls upon these senior Members of the Government Bench and the presiding officer to uphold the Rules they promote and allow the House to model the democracy for which we all strive.