Senator Danny Lugay
Senator Danny Lugay

Parliamentary representative for the Roseau North constituency, Danny Lugay has labeled a decision to deny him his monthly parliamentary salary "a grave injustice" as he is now deprived of his main source of livelihood for an indefinite period.

A letter to Lugay dated August 10, 2021, from the Clerk of the House of Assembly, Daniel James, informed him of the decision to suspend his salary until the next meeting of the House.

The decision, James said, was in accordance with Standing Order 50:(3) (c).

This issue arose from an incident that unfolded on July 29, 2021, when Lugay was forcibly removed from the First Meeting of the Second Session of the Tenth Parliament and sitting and banned from the session.

On the day in question, opposition MP's including Lugay strongly protested a vote supported by the government side in the House to limit the opposition leader's response to the prime minister's budget to only 30 minutes.

The day prior, July 28, prime minister Skerrit presented an over two hours long budget; a motion was then moved and approved for suspension of rule 41:6 to grant the opposition leader, Lennox Linton, the same amount of time used by Skerrit to give his response.

Linton was absent for Skerrit's budget presentation and the following day, when the Leader of the Opposition rose to present his response, the Speaker of the House, Joseph Isaac, informed him that his fellow parliamentarians would now have to reconsider the time frame that had been previously allocated for him.

According to Isaac, what was available in the past was a privilege awarded to the opposition leader which he forfeited as a result of his absence during the prime minister's budget presentation. He further averred that all precedence was damaged as there has been a time in Dominica's history where the opposition leader walked out during a budget presentation and attempted to present his response after the debate had started.

Government senator Cassani Laville then moved a motion for the previous vote to be rescinded and the extra time given to Linton forfeited in accordance with Standing Order 31(4) and 31(9).

Before the vote was passed, Linton told his fellow parliamentary colleagues this motion was punishment for his absence from the House during the prime minister's budget address and pointed out that Skerrit has consistently (on all six occasions) been absent from the house during his response to the budget.

Twenty-six government MP's supported the motion for which a division of votes was requested; seven were against, including six opposition members and one government backbencher. Five members were absent, among them, the Prime Minister.

Following the vote, Lugay rose and declared that the House would not continue its debate after committing such "injustice to the process of our democratic system." He was then joined by members of his party who, despite several requests by the Speaker to take their seats, refused to do so.

The Speaker then ordered the Sergeant at Arms to remove the members which were done with the assistance of several other police officers.

Though all opposition members were thrown out on that day, the Speaker stated they could return the following day except for Lugay who had to be physically removed from the House.

Speaking exclusively to The Sun, Lugay said the decision was "vindictive and wicked" and must be resisted with full vigour.

He declared that the said Standing Order which purports to give the Speaker and Clerk the right to take such action is unconstitutional and of no effect as the constitution makes protection for a parliamentarian's salary.

"Never in the history of the House has a parliamentarian salary been denied. Herbert Sabaroche was thrown out twice, his salary was never touched," he declared.

He declared that he could not sit by and allow the "conspiracy of injustice" to unfold without venting his frustration and taking action and refused to leave the House to highlight to the nation the opposition grievances.

On average, parliaments meet three times a year hence Lugay could be out of a salary for the next five to six months.

The Roseau North MP disclosed that the matter is now in the hands of his attorney.