Sir Gerald chides attorney general over stalled changes to Standing Orders

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The one-year unexplained delay of action on a report proposing changes to the Standing Orders that govern the conduct of parliament, has caused one of the authors of the report to chide the attorney general, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin in Parliament.
Speaker of the House, Sir Gerald Watt Q.C., who chaired the committee that prepared and submitted the report a year ago, told the Parliament on Thursday that he is not happy with the way the matter has been handled.
He also said he’s not impressed with Benjamin refusing to see him ahead of parliament on Thursday on the matter which he considers an urgent one given
that the committee completed its task to review the Standing Orders in August 2017, and he, Sir Gerald submitted the report in October last year.
“I as chairman, sent the draft to your department in October of last year. So, I just want the members of the House to know that we have acted with alacrity and so I am a little puzzled as to why on earth this matter cannot be brought to the House in a year. But, so be it,” he said.
In response to Sir Gerald’s remarks, the attorney general offered up two excuses.
Benjamin said his department returned the document to the Committee with suggestions for the adaptation of some provisions from the Trinidad Standing Orders. And, he added that the committee lost two of its members who were never replaced.
“It is my intention at the end of the sitting today by way of motions today, to ask that the honourable Mr. [Jamal] Pringle and Mr. [Trevor] Walker be substituted and included in the absence of former United Progressive Party (UPP) parliamentarians Mr. Baldwin Spencer and Ms. Joanne Massiah. So Mr. Speaker, your concerns are noted, but the delay has nothing to do with, Mr. Speaker, any lapse of judgment on the part of anyone in any division,” Benjamin said.
But Sir Gerald rejected the excuses saying several months ago he received a response from Benjamin’s department with recommendations.
“Those were minor, that didn’t have to come back to, with all due respect Mr. AG. All that needed if that was a change, prepare the change and bring it before parliament,” he said.
The speaker explained why the second excuse was without any merit.
“As regards the members on the other side…there is nothing else to do. I don’t know that we need to involve the other members of the opposition other than they will be served with the draft and they’ll be able to peruse it on the first sitting and then they will be able to make their contributions,” Sir Gerald said, and Benjamin replied, “Mr. Speaker, I am so guided.”
Soon after he was appointed Speaker of the House in 2014, Sir Gerald noted that the current Standing Orders, compiled since August 1967, were outdated.
He said he would voluntarily work with others to bring the Lower House of Parliament into the 21st century.

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