On Monday 22nd June, 2020, the Unity Labour Party (ULP) regime denied members of the opposition their rights to debate a Private Member’s Motion in parliament. The Motion was on the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Management of the Economic and Social Consequences of the Pandemic. It was proposed by Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Godwin Friday. This behaviour in parliament by the members of the ULP government is unacceptable and can be described as the tyranny of the majority.
From 2001, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has brought several Private Member’s Motions to parliament. For example, the Spiritual Social and Redemption Charter, Integrity Legislation, Electoral Reform and now the Motion on COVID- 19 pandemic and not one has been debated. The ULP government has blocked every effort by the NDP to get a Private Member’s Motion debated. The rules of the parliament allow for private members to bring a motion to the parliament once per year. Whenever, the NDP has brought a motion to parliament, either non-cabinet members of the government has brought a motion, or the government includes a number of Ministerial Statements on the Order Paper of parliament for that sitting, a strategy to use up the time that should have allowed for the debate, therefore preventing the NDP from debating its motion.
Further, there was a similar occurrence when the NO Confidence Motion was brought against the government in 2018. The No Confidence Motion was not debated after Dr. Gonsalves made significant changes to it and called it a Confidence Motion. This is what Dr, Gonsalves said during the intense exchanges that took place in the House of Assembly that day. “Mr. Speaker, with great respect …I have already said that the opposition can bring a motion of no confidence only if the government acquiesces or agrees….”
“Unless you have this initial step, which has to be overcome, you are going to have chaos in the Parliament……,” What is that statement telling us? Undoubtedly, it is seen as a mockery of democracy by the ULP regime.
We reiterate, what was done in 2018, during the NO Confidence Motion; in 2019, the Motion on Electoral Reform and again in 2020, the denial to debate the Motion on COVID- 19 go against the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which many people who came before us have fought for, in order to ensure that we are able to benefit from those freedoms which it guarantees. Dr. Gonsalves has transformed our parliament into a pantomime, by which he indulges himself in acting out narcissistic fantasies. He obeys that laws that he chooses to when it suits his purpose and ignores and tramples on those laws he chooses, when it does not suit his purpose to obey them. He functions like a veritable tin pot dictator and is viewed by many as pale imitation of the deposed Robert Mugabe, the disgraced former leader of Zimbabwe.
On March 11th, the World Health Organization declared the COVID- 19 outbreak a global pandemic. On the same day, it was announced that there was a confirmed case in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Since that time, the socioeconomic situation has changed drastically in the country. COVID- 19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Before COVID- 19, the economy of St. Vincent was in shambles. Unemployment was a staggering 46% among our youths and overall unemployment was 25% according to the IMF, low economic growth, agriculture had declined, manufacturing was non-existence and a number of businesses was closed. During COVID- 19, the economic condition has gotten worse. Unemployment has increased by 10 % and almost 400 businesses have closed according to the Minister of Finance which means increased hardship for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
With all the economic problems, the government’s lack of accountability and the poor fiscal management of the economy, the NDP has put together a Motion to debate the COVID- 19 crisis. The following is the Motion:
Private Member’s Motion on the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Management of the Economic and Social Consequences of the Pandemic
WHEREAS the quality of life in SVG has deteriorated over the last two decades
AND WHEREAS employment for young people coming out of school is seldom available
AND WHEREAS business activity and the economy have suffered from the arbitrary rule of the present government
AND WHEREAS economic activity has further suffered severely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
AND WHEREAS this government has a practice of distributing aid and government resources on a partisan political basis
AND WHEREAS in order to ensure transparent and effective use of relief funds it is essential that all international aid and all funds approved by Parliament for COVID-19 relief be managed by a permanent select committee of Parliament
AND WHEREAS to promote full, effective and speedy recovery from the COVID-19 crisis it is beneficial, practical and sensible to involve persons from various sectors of the economy and civil society who bring insight, experiences and expertise that would help the government to fashion meaningful and effective policies and measures to promote and achieve economic and social recovery from the crisis
BE IT RESOLVED that this Honourable House establish a permanent select committee of the House to supervise and report on the use of funds voted by Parliament for COVID-19 relief
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Government establish a broad-based task force that involves persons from various sectors of the economy and civil society who would bring insight, experiences and expertise that would help the government to fashion meaningful and effective policies and measures to aid and achieve economic and social recovery from the crisis.
Once again members of the NDP were denied their rights to debate their Motion. The ULP government continues to make a a mockery of democracy.