By Carlena Knight
After weeks of public speculation, St Phillip’s North MP Sir Robin Yearwood’s position as Deputy Speaker of the House has been settled.
Immediately following the February 17 swearing-in ceremony for Members of Parliament, a video began making the rounds to indicate that Yearwood did not sign the Parliamentary register, as every other member had done so prior.
The Opposition sought to highlight the video as evidence that he was not officially sworn in according to procedure, prior to the official budget debate on March 9.
Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle had in fact sought advice from House Speaker Sir Gerald Watt on the matter that day but no official ruling was made on the matter at the time.
“We cannot continue to do things the way we have been doing it over the years and we on this side are aware of the breach in procedure that took place with the swearing-in of the Deputy Speaker Sir Robin who refused to sign the book,” Pringle said.
But Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin sought to quell the matter explaining why Yearwood did not need to sign the book twice.
He explained that Yearwood previously swore his oath of allegiance when he was sworn in as Deputy Speaker, and then proceeded “to sign the legal document in front of the clerk of Parliament” so when he came a second time to swear in as MP, he did not need to sign the book.
Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watt agreed with Benjamin’s previous explanation, stating yesterday that Yearwood did follow the proper procedures and thus his role as Deputy Speaker is legitimate.
“It is clear that the custom has been, not only the custom but the House has always accepted that the Deputy Speaker swears the oath of allegiance and signs as Deputy Speaker. The fact that he does not sign as a Member is just spurious.
“It’s absolutely of no account here whether he signs as a Member or he signs as the Deputy Speaker, but according to record and custom every Deputy Speaker in the last two elections has signed as Deputy Speaker and the Parliament has continued,” Watt said during Parliament on Thursday.
The lack of protest from the Opposition immediately after the swearing-in also influenced Watt’s decision.
“Even if I am wrong — and I am not — the Parliament sat through the budget. While it is true that the Leader of Opposition raised that point in passing, there was no issue created at that time, there was no effort by the Opposition to decline to sit or to move a motion that the member for St Phillip’s North cannot sit.
“Consequently, the budget has been completed, every member of the Opposition bench has spoken on the budget and in fact, the legal principles apply here.
“You cannot accept a jurisdiction, accept that the budget debate was properly done, vote in the negative on it and then raise it now, that it cannot.
“I rule that the Deputy Speaker signed and was in order,” Watt added.