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Another parliament sitting in St Lucia: Another boo boo

Dear Sir:

The sitting of parliament Tuesday August 20 was another example of the ineptitude of [this] the government of Saint Lucia. The major item on the order paper was a motion guaranteeing the loan to Saint Lucia Air and Sea Port (SLASPA) from a consortium of banks as part of the financing of the Hewanorra Airport Improvement (HIA) Project.

Interestingly, during the debate on the initial motion on June 11, 2019, the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party, (SLP) pointed out that the resolution was incorrectly drafted and should be amended. In usual fashion, the government rebuked us for suggesting that the resolution was incorrect.

It was not the first time that the opposition has had to point out errors in resolutions and bills. Each time the government rebuked the opposition and proceeded with wanton recklessness. Someday the chickens will come home to roost.

However, this time, because the resolution is needed by the respective bank’s government had no choice but to return to parliament to amend.

For me, the day started strangely. Among the numerous statutory instruments which were laid (meaning that they had come into effect) was one for the guarantee for the consortium loan. I thought then, why lay this instrument when we [ parliament] are about to revoke it. Who knows why?

Then we [ parliament] revoked the incorrect and passed the corrected version.

Later we debated a motion authorising the minister of finance to purchase with monies from the consolidated fund shares in East Caribbean Financial Holding Company (ECFH) presently owned by Republic Bank. However, the resolution did not have a sum. That seemed strange to me as a money resolution is supposed to state a sum which is to be expended. Mightily strange.

I rose and sought the guidance of the Speaker of parliament to clarify whether this was correct. By then, prime minister Allen Chastanet answered and said he had spoken to the director of finance and attorney general and the reason the resolution was so drafted is because the share price fluctuates from day to day. I thought then so what, just put a fair and reasonable figure but in any event is it the correct way to prepare a money resolution.

Anyway, it was passed as usual. But it was so wrong, as usual. Here is what Erskine May (the guide on parliamentary practice) says on money resolutions and which I think applies in this case:

“In accordance with the constitutional principle which reserves the initiative in finance to the Crown…the terms of the resolutions recommended by the Queen are treated as laying down a maximum charge, which amendments may reduce in scope but may not extend in respect of the amount of the expenditure…”

In order words, the resolution should have said to authorize the minister for finance to purchase with monies not to exceed the sum of xxxxx from the consolidated fund; that sum to be determined.

You can listen to my contribution on this matter at the following link.

I await the experts view on this.

Ernest Hilaire

Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) Parliamentary Representative for Castries South



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