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I’m partial to being impartial

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The Speaker of the House, Sir Gerald Watt, QC recently felt the need to explain a couple of things to the public. In the first instance, he thought that the public might not understand why he would allow the prime minister to spew unfounded allegations towards OBSERVER and, in the second instance, he felt that it was his duty to contradict and correct the Attorney General as it related to the proposed amendment to the Police Act.
Let’s have a look at the Speaker’s sanction of the prime minister’s address. In the recent sitting of Parliament, he said, “Honourable Prime Minister, let me make this clear.  I gather, your statement is dealing, not only with the CIP programme but you are dealing with misinformation that you, as prime minister, consider is being sent out there. The misinformation has come from the said Senator Lovell.  And let me make my position clear. I said that when I came here that I would not allow anybody in Parliament, any member, to speak about a member of the public who is not in a position to defend themselves, however, I am also on record by stating, and I reiterate, that anyone outside — public persons, politicians, radio hosts, media proponents, whoever they are, who level serious accusation against any Member of Parliament, opposition or government –I am going to allow the person to respond. So don’t let anybody come after and say the Speaker allowed this and the Speaker allowed that. Anytime that is what you have done, the Member of Parliament … is entitled to respond. And I am sure that you understand that. Proceed!”
Fair enough but if the Speaker indicated that he was under the impression that “the misinformation has come from the said Harold Lovell”, why was the prime minister given carte blanche to lambaste OBSERVER media with heaps of unfounded accusations?
The Speaker made it clear that he would allow responses to anyone “who level serious accusation against any Member of Parliament”, but we have not made any accusations against the prime minister. None of the PM’s statements of grievance can be attributed to OBSERVER. So how can the Speaker allow the Parliament to be utilised as a podium to hurl unfounded allegations at our small media house with total impunity?
It cannot be a case that a parliamentarian can simply create “alternative facts”, deem them to be “misinformation” and then associate that to an individual or organisation without being challenged. Is it a case that the Speaker agrees with the sentiment of the prime minister and therefore gave him free reign to proceed?  We really need to know because the process seems grossly unfair, especially when you consider that parliamentary speech is privileged and cannot be challenged in a court of law.
In another demonstration of impartiality, the Speaker decided to educate the nation and the Attorney General, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, on the procedures related to passing and revising of proposed law and amendments. While appearing on the Labour Party aligned ZDK Radio, Sir Gerald felt the need to tell everyone that all had been fixed in the committee stage and argued that the change made the constitutionality debate null and void. He said, “It was changed to say that the minister with the approval of the commission, whereas consultation means you consult but you don’t necessarily have to have approval; when you say with the approval the minister will not be able to ask the commission to move anybody unless the commission itself approves it.”
We are not quite sure why the Speaker chose to take this action and we must admit that we felt a bit disappointed that he did not appear on OBSERVER Radio to deliver the message. He has always told us that he could not appear on OBSERVER because he had to maintain an air of impartiality. At this point, we have to assume that the Speaker deems the Labour Party aligned station more impartial than OBSERVER.
Only Sir Gerald can provide us with his motives for contradicting the Attorney General in such a public way. Earlier, Minister Benjamin had conceded that the presentations on The Big Issues programme had persuaded the government to revise the language in the amendment but before we could congratulate him on carrying a level head, the Speaker cut him off.
What makes this situation even more perplexing is: the AG said, “I’ve already spoken with the prime minister on this matter and with the commissioner of police.” So who exactly participates in the committee stage to which Sir Gerald alluded?
In any case, we would now like to take the time to give a thumbs-up to the Attorney General for listening to differing opinions and taking them into consideration. Like the PM, we would like to also thank him for being a loyal OBSERVER listener.

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