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Tuesday, 5 July 2011


On Monday, July 4, 2011, the birthday of the United States of America, the greatest democracy on earth, the Speaker removed the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Evans McNiel Rogers, from the Anguilla House of Assembly. The Member had protested at the very beginning of the session that a number of questions submitted, in a timely manner, to the Office of the Clerk of the House of Assembly were omitted from the Order Paper or Agenda for the meeting. He explained that a number of these questions had been previously submitted and were not answered by the Minister responsible and did not reappear on any subsequent Order Paper.

The Agenda was circulated more than seven days before the planned sitting of the House, and based on proper procedure, the Clerk is obliged to accept additional items for the meeting for the final circulation three days before the House is convened. Upon presenting its questions the Opposition was told that the Clerk to the House and the Speaker were both absent and as a consequence no additional items could be added to the Agenda. The Leader of the Opposition questioned the validity of this excuse given the fact there is a Deputy Speaker with the distinction of having served as Speaker of the said House for eleven consecutive years as well as other persons in the service who have substituted for the Clerk and who could have prepared final Agenda. Having made such a feasible arguments, the Leader of the Opposition felt confident that in this age of advanced communication, the Clerk and the Speaker should have been contacted to ensure that these questions were included on the Final Order Paper.

The lay out of the Agenda as established in the Rules of Procedure is arranged so as to ensure that Opposition’s questions get first attention in the House of Assembly thereby the Government as the majority cannot prevent the business of the minority from being heard.

What is also worthy of mention is that none of the two Government motions on the Agenda were of an urgent nature. As a matter of fact the MOU’s that they presented to be debated and approved by the House had already been approved by EXCO and signed by the Chief Minister and the Developer. They were therefore “deliberations after the fact”. In other words “mock consultations”.

At the beginning of his presentation on the first motion, the Leader of the Opposition expressed some concerns about the relevance of the debate on the motion and requested clarification from the acting Attorney General (A.G.). The Leader of the Opposition was concerned as to the impact of debating such a motion when it had already been approved by EXCO and signed by the Chief Minister and the Developer. At that time the Attorney General was absent from his seat. In the circumstances, Mr. Rogers continued with his presentation until the acting Attorney General returned. Mr. Rogers then posed the question to the acting A.G. who was in the process of answering when the Speaker intervened and prevented him from doing so. It was then that Mr. Rogers remarked that it seemed to him as if there is a concerted attempt by the House to silence the Opposition. The Speaker seemed to have ignored the remark but was then prompted by the Member for West End to demand that the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the statement. When so requested by the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition replied that he was not prepared to retract his statement, without being granted the opportunity to explain the reasons for making it. To which the Speaker ruled that she would not allow any such explanation and demanded an immediate retraction. The Leader of the Opposition refused to retract his statement and the Speaker called on the Sergeant-of-Arms to effect his immediate removal by reference to Section 48 (1) of the Rules of Procedure.

The Members of the Anguilla United Front (AUF) strongly protested this action taken by the Speaker and contend that it does not measure up to the charge of “disorderly conduct” which would trigger such action under Section 48(1) of the Rules of Procedure. We consider the Speaker’s actions to be high-handed and her excuse for the omission of Opposition’s questions to be unacceptable. Furthermore, the statements that she made regarding the Opposition’s right to ask the Attorney General a question on point of law related to a matter being debated in the House demonstrates a woeful lack of understanding of the Rules of Procedure.

It is our view that this and other decisions that the Speaker has taken over the last sixteen months may be interpreted as deliberate attempts to silence the Opposition in the Anguilla House of Assembly.

Information Division
Anguilla United Front
July 5, 2011

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