“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” – (Matthew 11:15 – King James Version).
There appears to be an orchestrated plot to do everything possible to discredit Antigua and Barbuda at this time, under the guise of working and sharing information in the public’s interest. Caribbean Times does not intend to take any blind swipes at any other media outlet, nor will it advise those refusing to adhere to things conducive for building a nation that we can all enjoy, in spite of our varying beliefs. However, there has to be merit and much value in the words of the national anthem calling that: “We commit ourselves to building a true nation brave and free; ever striving, ever seeking [to] dwell in love and unity.”
It is very disturbing to have heard things said and saw things printed that would want to impugn the character and upright standing of the Speaker in the House of Representatives. Claims of blatant bias, unfairness, and worse have been thrown into the public domain, regionally and internationally, that the current Speaker of the House performed in a manner that was contrary to the best traditions established in Westminster for centuries, and which have undergone tailoring in adaptation to the specific requirements of Antigua and Barbuda.
Drawn from research across the Commonwealth, it is clear that a Speaker of the House should demonstrate the following key personal attributes: “Fair-mindedness, flexibility, humour, confidence, being a good listener, and [possess] a genuine interest in parliamentary procedure.” Who, being honest, would suggest that these are not the characteristics exemplified by Sir Gerald Watt?
It is very disingenuous to hear a former Speaker whose term in holding that office was punctuated with blatant elements of prejudice beyond what can be described as reasonable. Since then, that same former Speaker finds herself under criminal investigation, but notwithstanding, was heard attributing improper behaviour, not on the part of her party colleague, but on the strong and upright credentials and actions of Sir Gerald. The deception continued unabated, with a Sunday programme that was easily sending the wrong message and bring the Office of Speaker into disrepute.
The fact is that: “Regardless of an assembly’s size or composition, every Speaker bears responsibility for balancing two fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy. The majority has the right to conduct its business in an orderly manner and the minority has the right to be heard. This responsibility makes the Speaker a crucial figure in our parliamentary form of government,” writes Gary Levy (1998).
Most right-thinking persons watching last week’s debate would have been abhorred by the extremely disrespectful behaviour that came from the Honourable Wilmoth Daniel. The Speaker of the House, as was his dutiful right to do, attempted to bring the offending politician in line with the procedures of the House, and with the rules that govern members in relation to ‘a point of order’.
But no! Daniel was too pompous to see that his disparaging conduct was uncalled for, and then taken to an extreme which ultimately showed his contempt for the individual granted in law, the full authority to regulate the business and proceedings in the House. Daniel deplorably behaved in a manner suggesting that his longevity in Parliament was ample reason to disregard the Speaker’s voice and instructions. Daniel proceeded to quite audibly make the false claim that the Speaker was insulting him, and that the Speaker has been carrying out some sort of personal vendetta against him. What garbage from an elected member to the chamber! Yet by Friday, he was on a radio station spouting a venom which can only confuse the issues, and which will further make unity an ideal rather than a reality.
Caribbean Times is adamant that the person that ought to be under scrutiny and that should receive national condemnation is Wilmoth Daniel. This long-serving politician stepped out of the bounds of decency and brought bad manners to the legislature and particularly to the Speaker of the House. If Antiguans and Barbudans want fairness, then they must severely chide Daniel. It is sad when a media entity would prefer to throw Daniel’s uncouth behaviour and his irresponsible tirade onto the back of the Speaker. Let Daniel carry his own cross.