Political commentator suggests that Standing Orders should be updated

Opposition Leader Hon Jamale Pringle
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By Latrishka Thomas

According to a political commentator, the Standing Orders that govern the procedures in the local parliament may need to be modernised.

That suggestion was put forward by Dr David Hinds while commenting on the recent blow-up in the Lower House last week, which resulted in the Leader of the Opposition and Member for All Saints East and St Luke, Jamale Pringle, walking out.

On Thursday, Pringle attempted to explain his reason for declining a position on the Cabinet’s Economic Recovery Committee but was shot down by Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watt.

Hinds said it is necessary to discuss “whether they [Standing Orders are outdated and  should be updated to take into consideration the change in times”, because according to him “these are institutions, which we inherited from the British, and in many ways we continued with those institutions almost unchanged.

“And in some instances, they seem to be incongruent with a political culture that we’ve developed over a period of time,” Hinds stated.

Furthermore, he highlighted the misconception by opposition representatives that the Speaker of the House is always biased in favour of the government.

“I think that perception, whether it is borne by evidence or not, reference, a strong perception by opposition in parliaments across the region, that speakers are not necessarily partial to them, that they tend to be partial to the government and so there is a sense of a crisis of legitimacy,  in a lot of our parliaments,” he said on Sunday’s Big Issues.

He said that that, too, could be the underlying cause of the ruckus in Parliament on Thursday.

A former speaker of the House of Representatives in Dominica, Alix Boyd Knights addressed the difficulties in changing Standing Orders.

“Between opposition, you have all reasons to tell you all why the Standing Orders need to be changed. And they get there and do they change it? No! That is why it has remained like that; there is not the willingness of the ruling side to change what benefits them. So, unless we have some way of changing the Standing Orders to be caught on to the modern time, then we have to live with it. And we have to follow the rules of the Standing Orders,” she said

And while Knights believed that the Speaker of the House was justified in his reasoning, D Gisele Isaac, a former speaker of the House here in Antigua, however, disagreed saying “the Standing Order was clear. What he did was clear.”

Meantime, the Political Leader, the Executive Committee, and the Women’s Forum of the United Progressive Party (UPP) also expressed their support for the stance taken by Pringle.

“We agree that MP Pringle acted within his rights as a Member of the House of Representatives in his attempt to register, by way of the Hansard, his explanation for declining a position on the Cabinet’s Economic Recovery Committee,” they said.

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