Clearing The Air On Purported Statements Made By Sen. Bernadine

Sir Lawrence A Joseph

Press Release From President Of The Senate, Sen. The Hon. Dr. Lawrence A. Joseph

An article entitled “No Answers to Questions from Senators” was published in the “New Today” newspaper dated 30 August 2013. This article compels me to issue this press release in order to clear the air on certain statements which were made therein. The publication claimed that on a certain weekly radio programme, Sen. Bernadine stated that no opportunity was given to Opposition Senators to direct questions to Government Ministers at the last sitting of the Senate. This last sitting was held on 21 August 2013. The article further claimed that I, as President of the Senate, blocked Senators from asking questions.

In the first case, it must be pointed out that no Opposition Senator had any questions down on the Order Paper for answers to be given by Government Ministers. The Opposition Senators in the Senate are Senators Burke, Bernadine and Vincent. There were questions from two Independent Senators, who were Sen. Clouden, (representing agriculture) but who was absent from the last sitting and from Sen. Roberts (representing trade unions). These two Independent Senators had correctly submitted their questions before the last Senate meeting in accordance with Standing Order No. 17. The standard procedure for asking questions in the Senate in accordance with Standing Order No. 19, is for initiators of questions to refer to the respective numbers which have been allocated to questions on the Order Paper. It is not usual for questions to be read out in the Senate.

At the time the listed questions were dealt with, the Leader of Government Business, Sen. Kenny Lalsingh gave reasons why those questions could not be answered at that time. Sen. Burke was allowed to speak elaborately on what he considered to be inappropriate excuses which were made by the Leader of Government Business. Sen. Bernadine then rose to continue the discussions on the excuses which were made by Sen. Lalsingh. It was then that I used my discretion as Presiding Officer to inform the Senator that I would not entertain any more discussions on that issue. I did so because on that day the Senate had a heavy workload of ten bills to be processed. In fact the Senate had an eleven-hour meeting on that day which lasted up to 8 pm. I was of the opinion, which opinion I still hold, that further discussions on that issue were unnecessary and time wasting.

To say therefore that I blocked Senators from asking questions to Government Ministers in the Senate is far from the truth.

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