More of the same…

A new session of the Saint Lucia Parliament has started, but the same old troublesome problems still remain, most of all the absence of a Deputy Speaker.

The Government side named the former President of the Senate to replace the former Speaker and named a new Senate President to replace the old.

But neither the Government, nor the Opposition, has named a Deputy Speaker, each side digging into its ground insofar as refusing to be the one to make a nomination.

Like it’s been since the last General Elections almost two years ago, both sides claim it’s the other’s duty or turn, each offering their own interpretation of the Constitutional notion of when it will be ‘convenient’ for either to opt to name one of its members to fill the post.

Here again, the business of the House of Assembly will continue to be pursued without a Deputy Speaker, as if both sides consider that a Deputy Speaker is not at all essential.

In holding its ground, the Opposition is also claiming that it was not consulted or informed by the Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business in the House as to who the next or new Speaker would be – just as it did when the current Governor General was appointed recently.

From the way the two sides behave, there is no indication that any will yield — so it is probably safe to conclude that the only new thing that’s happened in the House is that it’s moved from having an old ‘Madam Speaker’ to a new ‘Mr Speaker’; and in the Senate, it’s the same change, but vice versa – from an old ‘Mr President’ to a new ‘Madam President’.

It was Déjà Vu as well, when the Opposition decided to boycott the presentation of his first Throne Speech by the new Governor General.

Nothing the Opposition says or does by way of protest will change the fact that the former Labour stalwart has been appointed by the UWP to serve the nation from Government House. But the Labour MPs seem more than willing to keep reminding its old war horse that he is still considered an enemy in its stables.

From early appearances, therefore, it would not be out of place to expect that in this new session of the House, the two sides will continue playing the same old game of ‘parliamentary hide-and-seek.’

Meanwhile, it’s also the same old story about the budget presentation and debate.

Once again, the Budget proposals will be presented and debated more than once, in public and private, but with members of the public having to rely exclusively on what the parliamentarians say – in both the Lower and Upper Houses – to know and follow what’s presented and what the two sides’ positions are.

The Governor General’s Throne Speech this year was pregnant with promises of gubernatorial policy changes during the coming fiscal year. But the extent to which these promised changes will be debated is anyone’s guess, as MPs will most likely be more interested in what’s in the budget for their respective constituencies than in plans for national policy changes.

The $1.4 Billion Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure presented by the Prime Minister last evening will occupy the minds and mouths of the MPs in both houses while the citizens will follow by radio, TV, Internet and social media.

The debates will proceed apace in the days ahead– both hot and cold.

But at the end of the day, public response will continue to be lukewarm for the very reason that, as always, most listeners and viewers will be watching and listening according to which party they support.

And then, the House of Assembly will (again) continue to function without a Deputy Speaker – until one side or the other changes its collective mind.

The more things change…

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