During Friday’s House meeting, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Valerie Woods, ordered the removal of Leader of the Opposition Hon. “Shyne” Barrow from the sitting after she heard him say she was “acting like a PUP”
by Marco Lopez
BELMOPAN, Mon. Mar. 13, 2023
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow, was escorted from last Friday’s House of Representatives meeting just before the wrapping up of the debate on the last bill being introduced to the House on that day. A back and forth during the presentation by Hon. Kareem Musa led to some unparliamentary language uttered by Barrow toward the Speaker of the House, Hon. Valerie Woods. A visibly upset Woods asked the Sergeant at Arms to remove Barrow from the chambers after he had refused to retract the statement—at which point Barrow repeated the offense, saying she was “behaving like a PUP.”
“I am sorry, Member, I have to say this,” Speaker Woods said to Minister Musa, “and I do apologize for not allowing you to continue exactly at this moment.” She then proceeded to tell Hon. Barrow, “Mr. Leader of the Opposition. The Standing Order of 38(7) and 38(8), I’ll direct it to 8.” She pointed out Barrow’s breach of a Standing Order which bars members from calling into question the conduct of persons sitting in the office of the Speaker.
Section 38(8) of the House Standing Orders states, “The conduct of Her Majesty and Members of the Royal Family, Governor General, the Speaker, the President of the Senate, Members of the National Assembly, Judges and other persons engaged in the administration of Justice shall not be raised except upon a substantive motion moved for the purpose; and in any amendment, question to a Minister or debate on a motion dealing with any other subject, any reference to the conduct of any such person as aforesaid shall be out of order.”
Hon. Barrow, for his part, gave the impression that he was caught off guard by the Speaker’s pointing out her displeasure at the language used and had to seemingly be reminded of what was allegedly said.
“I will ask you to retract what you just said referring to me in this chair … oh, so you suddenly lost your memory. Well, I will act like a PUP. Did you not just say that? I will ask you to retract it … Member, yes, you are questioning my conduct. You directed to me. I ask you to retract; I will ask you to retract,” Speaker Woods said to Barrow.
We were unable to hear what Hon. Barrow was replying, but it is clear that he attempted to deny whatever was said. The Sergeant at Arms was promptly called to escort Barrow from the House.
He initially refused to leave his seat, suggesting that the decision was unreasonable.
“One statement that you can’t even verify … and so now you are behaving like a PUP,” Shyne said. The Speaker called on the police and also a minister before Hon. Barrow conceded to remove himself from the sitting.
“May I get a minister to name if the member does not excuse himself,” Speaker Woods said.
“I am excusing myself; we, weh you want ah do? Run out?” Hon. Barrow replied.
We note that while the initial statement was uttered, Hon. Barrow’s microphone was turned off, and whatever was said was not captured on the record audibly. The stern disciplinary action after Barrow’s refusal to retract the statement came after a full day of typical parliamentary mudslinging from both sides.
While the sometimes unbecoming exchanges between members of the House are occasionally passed over by Speaker Woods, the comment made by Barrow regarding her conduct in the capacity of Speaker was seemingly the last straw for Woods. We note that this is the first time a member has been removed from House proceedings during Woods’ tenure as Speaker.
While the role of the Speaker of the House is to be an apolitical one, it is often the case that stalwart members of the ruling party are chosen by prime ministers to serve in that capacity. Speaker Woods, before taking on the role, served in various capacities for the PUP, including as a PUP senator.