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HomeOpinionCommentaryBousquet’s Bulletin: St Lucia continues making parliamentary history

Bousquet’s Bulletin: St Lucia continues making parliamentary history

Will United Workers Party (UWP) and Independents forget their troubles and dance?

By Earl Bousquet

The first session of Saint Lucia’s 12th parliament opens today with all eyes on the joint session to be called after Deputy Governor-General, Errol Charles, appoints the President of the Senate, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly – and Leader of the Opposition (LOO).

Notwithstanding selectively-leaked announcements in the press about who’ll be what, the named persons won’t be until and unless after being officially sworn-in by the Deputy Governor-General today and the summoning of the joint session of both the upper and lower Houses of Parliament by the Senate President.

But while the nameplates of the president, speaker, deputy speaker and senators were unveiled ahead of time, the real missing name tag was that for the opposition leader.

Former prime minister and leader of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) Allen Chastanet had mistakenly announced himself as opposition leader on his Facebook page, just days after the July 26 general elections left his party with two members of parliament.

But despite being told ‘Not so fast …’ by former prime minister Stephenson King (who informed him what the law says in that regard), Chastanet’s vehicle was seen parked daily outside the official office of the opposition leader, (the Ward & Co building on the corner of Chisel and Peynier Streets).

With two independents also in the House and King informing Chastanet of the constitutional requirement for consultation between those not sitting on the government side to determine who among them has the majority support for the position of opposition leader, the door is wide open for a fresh start to a parliamentary stalemate of historic and humongous proportions.

The two UWP’s and two independents will have to agree on who among the four has the support of the other three.

That should be an easy task under normal circumstances, but these are abnormal times – and there’s absolutely nothing normal about the relationship between the two halves of the parliamentary quartet involved, the UWP duo presenting itself as a bigger half than the two independents.

Despite half-a-cup of water being both half-full and half-empty, the UWP sees its pair as a bigger half. But even though members of the new Cabinet, the two independents are also a pair of separate members of parliament, and no less a half of the opposition’s parliamentary whole.

And then there’s the depth and breadth of the historic differences between the two pairs on the same side of the House.

Nothing the UWP’s two has had to say about both and/or either of the two independents – and vice versa – leaves much hope that either of the two halves will agree on how to shape the desired whole.

The cake is so badly burnt between Chastanet and both Frederick and King – that the current UWP leader can’t be seen to support either for the position, leaving the member of parliament for Choiseul Bradley Felix as the party’s only chance.

But no one here quite sees Felix accepting such a proposition, which would be seen, painted and sold as a betrayal of his party and leader. Nor does anyone envisage either of the two independents supporting any of the two UWP’s.

The 13 Saint Lucia Labor Party (SLP) members of parliament have no say or vote in the matter, only bottomless windbags of silent laughter as the two pairs argue over which is a bigger half.

One does not have to be an accountant or need a calculator to see that should the two halves disagree on the composition of the composite whole, the seat would remain vacant for as long as the disagreement lasts. But in such a case, would or should the business of parliament be put on hold indefinitely while highly disagreeable opposition halves in the Lower House continue to highly disagree?

The possible high noon showdown between the two halves sitting on the same side astride the 13 government members of parliament would be most quiet, as consultations (negotiations) between the two – two’s will be held in private chambers, far away from cameras – and the public eye.

But viewers at home and abroad, watching on big screens outside the parliament or on computer or phones, across the island and around the world today, will not only be watching an interesting play of usual related parliamentary procedures.

Unknown to many, they’ll also be watching another set of uniquely Saint Lucian parliamentary history unfold before their very eyes.

The island is/was the first and only with an elected parliament (at least in the OECS, CARICOM and the British Commonwealth) to spend an entire five-year term (2016-2021) without a deputy speaker.

Today, the island is also on the cusp of another unenviable parliamentary record: the first to possibly also spend an equal term without an opposition leader. Perhaps?

The legal, judicial and constitutional implications in a parliament guided by a Westminster system that requires an opposition leader even if the ruling party wins all the seats were skimmed over by the UWP’s legal advisors ever since July 27.

Lawyers and laymen with legal knowledge have been going heads over heels to create, even invent ingenious legal calculations of basic arithmetic – like the UWP’s two being ‘one united unit’ while the independents are ‘a pair of separate persons.’

But some, caring less about the legalese than the politics, also ask if the ignoring of the constitutional requirement for a deputy speaker was accepted for five years, why can’t parliament proceed without an opposition leader for any length of time – especially through, the infraction being no fault of the government.

Yet, all the above can end-up as mere speculation if the two halves, pairs or duos surprise Saint Lucians and the world and decide, at the first opportunity today, to simply take Bob Marley’s advice and ‘forget your troubles and dance’, in the common interest of making a fresh start at the very beginning of a new parliament.

Either way, Saint Lucia will still be making history today.

Whatever the equation or solution agreed or disagreed to by the contending fractions or factions, another brand-new chapter of Saint Lucia’s already-very-interesting parliamentary history since independence 42 years ago, will have been written by the end of today.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Earl, I believe that Richard and Steve will support Bradley, thereby forcing him to vote for himself. He will have to do so, or face the prospect of yet another lead chain around his neck, as “the coward of the county.” I believe that your assumption that he might be seen as a traitor, if he accepts, is far-fetched, as UWP members in their vast majority already want to see the back of Allen Useless Chastanet.

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