by Linda Straker
- Tobias Clement will continue serving as elected member of Lower House for his constituency
- Did not take up ministerial position after winning his seat
- His decision will bring changes to the House of Representatives
The Member of Parliament elected as a candidate for the ruling New National Party (NNP), has resigned from the party and has chosen to continue serving as the elected member of the Lower House for his constituency, and served notice that his decision will bring changes to the house.
The NNP won all 15 seats in the Lower House or House of Representatives in the February 2013 and March 2018 General Elections. As a result, there is no elected Leader of the Opposition in parliament.
“The operations of the house will be different,” said Tobias Clement who was elected to represent the constituency of St George’s North East in both elections, by defeating Nazim Burke who in 2018 was the leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
“There will be some kicking up in this house,” he said while contributing to the debate of the 2020 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure which was presented in the House on Wednesday, 20 November 2019, by Finance Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell.
Clement, a university educator, is one of two candidates who won seats in the elections but did not take up ministerial positions. In 2013 the other was Clifton Paul, and in 2018 the other backbencher was Anthony Boatswain.
The debate wrapped up on Friday, 22 November 2019 in the Lower House, and is scheduled to be debated in the Upper House of Parliament which comprises 7 government-appointed senators: 3 who were appointed by the Governor-General, as well as 3 who each represent the business community, farmers and fishermen, and the trades union movement, respectively.
Clement, who has indicated that he will take up the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the “near, near future” complained that documents for the budget were presented to him in violation of the rules, hindering his ability to make a meaningful contribution to the debate.
“I got this in 7 hours; the rule says 7 days, Mr Speaker,” he said as he displayed the 500-plus page document which contains the financial details of all government ministries’ achievements for 2019 and projections for 2020, and in some cases 2021.
“How many of us can sit in front of a computer and go through a 500-page document in 7 hours? When it comes to making a contribution, Mr Speaker, the contribution must be meaningful,” he said, telling other members that they were elected to make a meaningful contribution as part of the democratic process.
“This is why we were elected in this house, not to be a rubber stamp, but when you are given a couple of hours to peruse a document like that, the question is what kind of contribution can you make even to your constituency,” he said, complaining the move to make parliament a paperless institution has its challenges.
Describing short notices as a form of total disregard for institutions, Clement referred to a recent special sitting of parliament in which the notice was sent via email and he did not get the email nor a phone call informing him of the sitting.
“Moving forward in the future, even though an email is sent, at least give members a courtesy call,” he said, expressing his belief that if the principles of democracy are eroded then it’s a sign of trouble. “Mr Speaker, if we are to have meaningful public discourse, it means therefore that we should not tread on the institutions that protect our democracy,” he said.
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