By Elesha George
Member of Parliament (MP) for All Saints East and St Luke’s, Jamale Pringle, will continue to represent his constituents in future parliamentary sessions, after Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sir Gerald Watt QC, chose not to invoke measures that could keep the MP from engaging in proceedings for up to six months.
After outlining several reasons why he felt Pringle had violated the House’s standing orders, Sir Gerald said he would not invoke the clause that would cause members to vote on Pringle’s suspension.
“I have decided, after much thought, not to invoke standing orders 42 and 43 with regard to the member’s unseeingly behaviour and disrespect shown to the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” he ruled.
Sir Gerald said his decision was predicated upon “a variety of reasons” including that the member had never before behaved in this manner, that he is one of only two opposition members and that Pringle is “reasonably new” to parliamentary proceedings, being the youngest and newest member of the House.
“I am of the view that he may have been misled by his advisor or his advisors whether in his party or otherwise,” he remarked, adding that had Pringle been suspended, “It would have left no one presumably, to put forth the voices of the opposition, of not only his party but other opposition persons who would need to have a voice.”
The Speaker’s decision not to suspend the Opposition Leader stemmed from an argument on May 14 when Pringle arose to explain why he chose not to join members of the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) for Covid-19, during the ‘personal explanation’ portion of the proceedings.
The Opposition Leader said at the time that he wanted to defend himself against comments made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne who suggested that Pringle had avoided his responsibilities by refusing to participate in the ERC. He was however denied the opportunity when Sir Gerald informed him that his statements were not permissible under the particular standing order.
On Tuesday, the Speaker maintained that the matter on which Pringle wished to speak was well outside the parameters of what was permissible and would have led to “unnecessary debate”.
Sir Gerald also raised the point that Pringle had violated House rules when he continued to speak long after he rose to address him.
After a near 30-minute explanation reiterating what led to the argument and his later decision, the Speaker addressed the Opposition Leader directly telling him, “You occupy a most important constitutional position as Leader of the Opposition in parliament. Apart from your position as chairman of the public accounts committee, you’re usually included in every select committee in the House. Constitutionally you are to be consulted by the Prime Minister and Governor General in a number of legal and constitutional matters. Indeed, you are a person expected to become Prime Minister and to lead the country in the event the government is toppled or as a result of a general election. …That’s where you need to be looking, not fighting me.”
This time when Pringle rose during Tuesday’s personal explanations, he sought to be granted leave by the Speaker for the opportunity to explain his decision to walk out on May 14.
Although Sir Gerald indicated that he would have preferred to be notified in advance, he allowed Pringle to argue his case and later both agreed to disagree on the series of events that materialised.