16th October 2019
Dear Honourable Leader of the Opposition,
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter Ref. OL/GEN/2019 (15) dated 8th October 2019, in which you stated that I made an “arbitrary decision” when I did not allow you and the Opposition Members to debate the Write-Off Motions, following the reports from the Finance and Economic Development Committee which were submitted for adoption by the House. You further stated that your constitutional rights were violated and that my action was contrary to the spirit and letter of the Standing Orders. However, Honourable Opposition Leader, you provided no objective references in the Standing Orders to substantiate your grievances. On the contrary, your letter is misleading, and the facts are misrepresented.
I wish to refer you to House Standing Order (S.O.) 23 “Arrangement of Public Business”, especially S.O. 23(3) which says that “Government Business shall consist of Motions proposed to be made and Bills sponsored by Ministers.” The five (5) Write-Off Motions were moved under item 14 “Public Business, Government Business, Motions” of the Orders of the Day on Friday, 16th August 2019, and should have been debated forthwith, as is the procedure when all Motions are presented in the House.
When the Write-Off Motions were moved by the Right Honourable Prime Minister on 16thAugust 2019, I looked on both sides of the Chamber and none of the Honourable Members of the Opposition rose to debate the Motions. In the absence of a debate, I referred the Write-Off Motions to the Finance and Economic Development Committee, as provided for in S.O. 74(1).
What is important to note is that there was another Motion that was presented and debated on the 16th August 2019. Ten (10) Members, including Opposition Members, rose to speak/debate the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan)–Upgrading of the Corozal-Sarteneja Road and the Construction of the Pueblo Nuevo and Laguna Seca Bridges (US$50,000,000) Loan Motion, 2019. This was also a Motion that was moved by the Right Honourable Prime Minister during that same House meeting of the 16th August 2019. Following that debate, I then referred the Motion, as is the procedure, to a House Standing Committee. Subsequently, the Committee met that same day, and thereafter reported back to the House. At the time when the Committee was reporting back to the House on the Motion, there was no second debate on the Motion because, as you should be aware, there is no provision in the Standing Orders for a second debate to take place again. You should know, Honourable Opposition Leader, that the House then proceeds to either adopting or rejecting the Motion. The said Loan Motion was adopted that same day.
As a senior Parliamentarian and Leader of the Opposition, you should be fully aware that my decisions must be grounded in the Standing Orders. I posit that the letter sent to me should, instead, be directed to the Honourable Members of the Opposition for them to provide you with their reasons why they failed to debate the Motion on 16th August, 2019, when the Motion was presented. Perhaps they do not fully understand the procedures laid out in the Standing Orders. Honourable Opposition Leader, I want to remind you that any concerns or requests for changes in the Order of Business must be discussed with the Speaker at least an hour prior to any House Meeting for it to be discussed and agreed upon.
The sacred principle of democracy, as stated in your letter, has been trivialized when issues are presented to the general public. A key principle of democracy, that of veracity, should be employed to nurture confidence and trust. Therefore, in the interest of the general public, I strongly encourage your Members to accept responsibility for their failure to debate, in accordance with the Standing Orders, when the Write-Off Motion was presented.
(HON. LAURA TUCKER LONGSWORTH)
Speaker of the House of Representatives