Apr 2, 2008

The Speaker, Mr. Panday and the WACKy Shout Box

The Speaker of the House
In Trinidad and Tobago, the Speaker, or in his absence the Deputy Speaker, presides over each sitting of the House of Representatives, acts as Chairman of Committees of the House and enforces the observance of all rules for preserving order in its proceedings. As a result he maintains order, enforces the rules as is necessary, interprets Standing Orders and practices of the House, deals with points of order and gives rulings when called upon to do so.
The Speaker is considered the guardian of the privileges of the Members of the House of Representatives and the chief characteristics required are authority and impartiality. The Speaker is also responsible for the management and general administration of the House.
Mr. Panday
There was an incident in Parliament recently where the leader of the opposition, Mr. Basdeo Panday, refused to shut down his laptop computer when requested to do so by the Speaker of the House, the Honorable Barendra Sinanan. Mr. Panday described his behavior as “act of civil disobedience”. This act of disobedience will result in a suspension but a suspension for what? Was this episode about the use of the laptop, the disobedience of the Speaker’s instructions or his refusal to accede to the Standing Order 43(5) or simply all three? What really happened here, who is right and who is wrong? I had a conversation in the WACK Shout box that led me to conclude that these WACKonians didn’t really take time to examine the situation and readily concluded that Mr. Panday is emphatically wrong.
On the surface Mr. Panday disobeyed the Speaker so he is wrong, correct? Well it is not that simple my dear friends. You see just as there are laws that the members of Parliament have to follow so too does the Speaker. Just keep in mind that Mr. Panday is an experienced lawyer and one who understands our system of government and the law well. Sometimes there are 'principled issues' that people go out on a limb to defend - was this the case with Mr. Panday?
Personally, I believe the Speaker chose the wrong issue to use to punish the leader of the opposition. A person should have the right to use a laptop computer during any presentation whether during his presentation or to research information during someone else’s presentation - that is just common sense, for heaven's sake. The more informed the person is, the better the debate and a more productive outcome we will have. This is not a mathematics test in High school where no electronic devices can be used during an examination - that was a silly move by the Speaker and he should have known better when dealing with elected officials conducting the business of the people.
“The population is under a very grave misapprehension, this issue has nothing to do with the use of a computer. The issue is that the Speaker is trying to amend the Standing Orders of this country unlawfully, illegally, without authority and without power,” Panday said. “He cannot, by issuing a memo, change the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders contain nothing about the use of a computer as indeed it talks about not having a briefcase,” he said.
Do we know if Mr. Panday is correct with this assertion? Who understands the laws better you, me or do you think that Mr. Panday has a better understanding of the mechanics of Parliamentary procedure? How many of us understand the way Parliament operates? Is he right or wrong? If Mr. Panday is correct, then what is the precedent for the Speaker to act in this manner? Then again if the Speaker is correct Mr. Panday will pay the price for his behavior. I am not judging anyone here because I don’t know if Mr. Panday is correct about the law or if the Speaker had the right to change the rules as he deems fit. However, it seems that everyone who participated in the discussion in the shout box think that Mr. Panday is the problem. Just remember that in Haiti it was an act of disobedience that changed the rules and brought freedom to the people from the rule of France. If the leader of the opposition's principled stand is wrong only Mr. Panday will pay the price for it, Ok.
The Shout Box is very interesting indeed. It is a place where very educated individuals come to have fun – to unwind, that's it. One person who epitomizes this is Debbie from Maryland and the other is TriniRicky - most of the time they don’t care about the bacchanal in the box or political turmoil but I am sure they have their convictions grounded in stone. Then there are others who believe that they are the voice of reason and must speak out (wait one minute now, I guess that I am in that category also, ha). My experiences in the box are varied but simply because I seem to always go against the grain I usually get in trouble – on Wednesday April 2, 2008 it was no different.
I missed the Bassa segment and entered the box after seeing that Mr. Panday was tried and convicted of the crime of setting a bad example - in the estimation of my esteemed colleagues he was guilty as charged. No one seemed to care about his ‘fight’ and the silly (yes silly) rule that the Speaker was enforcing - let’s call it 'the laptop rule'. Tigress was front and center and decided that Panday is against progress and should be dealt with (he is always opposing and never supports anything). I even saw in the box that he is Guyanese and should be sent back. Just imagine a man who has fought for years in the Sugar Industry and served the country for decades is being treated in such a manner. Now don’t be misguided and believe that I am a Panday supporter. No, no, no I am not. I thought he made a fool of himself during the elections and for those who can remember he and I had our differences aired on WACK when he was a guest with Cowen Boneo moderating a political segment during the election campaign. I supported the COP (we can have a discussion about that if anyone desires).
Not a Damn Dog Bark
Just to show how biased the shout box is, to date over 100 persons have been murdered, food prices are outrageously out of control and nothing done to solve crime or help the agricultural sector. Guess what not a damn Dog bark! No one from the shout box said a word, no discussion about it, but today the Honorable Patrick Manning spoke about plans to solve the problem of the current food crisis which he was quoted as saying is a “top priority.” Wow, guess what - the box lit up. Hope springs eternal in the human breast (sweet); I hope the plans work, we have to give him a chance yap, yap, yap. Amazing, what does that tell you – it was like the election victory – talk only about the good refrain from criticizing the bad. The aircraft that crashed before it took off – remember the cry? Buy the plane; at least we will see where the money is going. The food crisis was on the horizon for some time but there was no action or reaction from the government, now here come the honorable Prime Minister with 'words' that are meant to appease but food prices keep rising.
It has been some time now that the importers have been complaining about the difficulty to source food items on the world market. The US and World wheat crops were poor - that is old news and the US ethanol production has not gone up substantially to deplete the supply of corn. These facts were available for some time now and did the government act? Hell no! So when I see the hypocrisy in the box I sigh and wonder. Does anyone recall the closing of Caroni Limited - the PM's best move as he claimed. Caroni limited was in agriculture and was the driving force in the creation of the World famous Buffalypso - our government destroyed it all. They were advised to go into ethanol production (diversification of the sugar industry) but refused because we have oil. Forget about all the downstream industries it would have created. Forget the fact that the closure of the industry put thousands in unemployment without retraining to work in other fields of endeavor. None of that mattered. The Jamaicans are now involved in ethanol production with the assistance of the Brazilians. Venezuela is assisting the Caribbean region with cheap fuel and production facilities to support the energy sector in the Caribbean region. We, on the other hand, are content to collect taxes on our resources while the multinational corporations walk away with the bounty. Do you really think that these were smart moves by your government?
And while all of this is going on the topic of discussion is Mr. Panday and the Speaker of the House - talk about a classic distraction from the true ill that face the society. To be honest if you want to be entertained, visit the WACKy shout box for your daily dose of entertainment.
Gosh ah going to bed, good night.






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