By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
HOUSE Speaker Kendal Major has “consistently appeared biased” during his time in the chair, the opposition Free National Movement claims.
In a statement released yesterday, party chairman Darron Cash accused Dr Major of treating the opposition with “a regrettable lack of respect and fairness” and recalled incidents in this week’s House sessions as evidence.
“His conduct of the affairs in parliamentary debates has not been even-handed, and figuratively speaking, he has allowed members of the governing party to get away with murder of the rules, while ensuring the strictest enforcement of the spirit and letter of those rules when it comes to the FNM,” Mr Cash said of Dr Major.
“Opposition parliamentarians have consistently been held accountable for every utterance, including comments made from their seats. Meanwhile, the Speaker has not been even close in treating the governing party’s members in that same exacting manner.
“Thanks to the Speaker, the members of the governing party have had a free hand in their repeated, yet failed attempts to railroad the opposition.”
Members of the governing side – particularly ministers – are repeatedly allowed to rise on points of order and “give speeches” while members of the opposition are rarely afforded this courtesy, Mr Cash said.
When ministers refute statements made by the opposition – regardless of if the rebuttals are accurate or not, Mr Cash said, the Speaker instructs the opposition to take note of what was said, “as if they are infallible.”
He noted that this week, “The leader of the opposition made his contribution to the mid-year (so-called-budget) debate on Monday March 4. He was loudly, discourteously, and consistently heckled by members of the Cabinet and the handful of members who constitute the PLP’s back bench,” Mr Cash said.
“Not once did the Speaker of the House deem it fit to single out any particular heckler. He clearly only had eyes for the FNM members of parliament. Only the FNM parliamentarians can do wrong in his eyes.
“This was abundantly clear in Parliament on Wednesday, March 6 when the Speaker found it necessary to repeatedly call out and warn the Member of Parliament for Long Island, Mrs Loretta Butler-Turner, who was herself only responding to the repeated heckling of an FNM speaker by members of the government.
“The Member for Long Island was responding to PLP hecklers, but she was the one who was warned by name by the Speaker. When he consistently had occasion to call out the various offending government members, all the Speaker could do was utter the vague, general and sheepish remark, ‘Members’.”
Mr Cash also said that “in view of the Speaker’s call for higher standards,” this is an appropriate time for Dr Major to see that House proceedings begin on time – “rather than the customary 20 and 30 minutes late.”