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Opposition leader Lennox Linton , left, and Speaker Alix Boyd-Knights
Opposition leader Lennox Linton , left, and Speaker Alix Boyd-Knights

What happened in Parliament this week when the issue of the Motion No Confidence in the Government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit came up?

Speaker Alix Boyd-Knights had Leader of the Opposition, Lennox Linton, ejected from the House of Assembly.

Linton was about five minutes into the introduction of the Motion of No Confidence in the economic performance of the government when the inevitable clashes began.

Here's how it happened, in the words of the participants.

Linton:

... We're seen the Prime Minister all over the shop, we're seen the Prime Minister appointing all sorts of ambassadors all over the world giving the impression that what he's really doing is to expand economic opportunities, trying to grow the pie in Dominica so that more people can benefit.

In fact what he's ended up with is a whole series of questionable characters, hurting the image of Dominica in the international community. While the Prime Minister hands out diplomatic passports he hands them diplomatic privileges, diplomatic immunity etc. to do whatever they want with this diplomatic status; we see no benefit, no economic benefit…

Speaker:

I just want to let you know when you impugn improper motives, it is wrong and it is against the rules of the House.

Linton:

You are part of the debate now, Madame Speaker?

Speaker:

Excuse me?

Linton:

I just asked whether you are part of the debate

Speaker:

I find your question very rude

Linton:

Oh yeah? I find your intervention very out of order

Speaker:

I'm telling you… you will listen to me because this is what I'm here for

Linton:

(laughs)

Speaker:

And just because you think you are having your day doesn't mean that…

Linton:

What day are you talking about? Madame Speaker, what day? Having what day?

Speaker:

I am telling you, you have impugned improper motives. You are to cease and desist. You know very well what you have said and you know very well… you are a wise person, you are an intelligent person and you know very well that you are impugning improper motives. I am the one to advise the House…

(Here the Speaker advises the Leader of the Opposition to refer to Rules 86 and 49).

Please apprise yourself to see that when I intervene as those two rules tell me to do, it is rude of you to tell me I am getting into the debate. You are being absolutely rude and out of place and you should be made aware of that. Continue

Linton:

I was about to inquire whether that was you or whether that was the demon in you. But I'll not go down that road.

Speaker:

I am again going to tell you, you apologise to the chair before you-say-one-further-word

Linton:

Madame Speaker you started…

Speaker:

You apologise

Linton:

You sat in that chair and you said to this honourable House… (Voice gone. Mike may have been turned off)

Speaker:

You referred to me as having a demon in me and I'm telling you if you don't apologise to the chair you will not be permitted to say one other word

Linton:

Madame, you sat…

Speaker:

I'm telling you… you know…

Linton:

Madame Speaker, you sat in that honourable chair and you said to the House of Assembly that the demon in you is ordering the member to sit down. Not me. What is your beef? You said you had a demon in you to ask somebody else to sit down, so I'm asking you now whether it's the demon that's operating or is it you, that's all I'm asking

And I'm not going to apologise for it. Those are your words. I'm not apologising for it, for words you have mentioned in the House. I'm not doing it

Speaker:

I get the impression that the Member has concluded his contribution to his motion

Linton:

The member has not concluded. The member would like to continue but you keep interrupting the member in a very ad hoc manner. I don't understand what these interventions are about. Can I continue, Madame Speaker? I am not apologising

Speaker:

Well…

Linton:

I'm not apologising. I'm not apologising for your words that you have mentioned in this House. I'm not doing it. So, Madame Speaker…

Speaker:

The member, I don't know…

(At that point Attorney General Levi Peter stood on a point of order and mentioned the stipulations of Rule 50 which provides guidelines when a member of parliament shows disregard for the chair)

Linton:

Madame Speaker, are you going to allow me to continue the presentation of this Motion to the parliament or not?

Speaker:

As soon as you apologise

Linton:

I am not apologising

Speaker:

Oh, well…will the next person stand to speak? Member you just cannot be rude to the Chair like this and this is manifestly wrong of you

(No member took the Speaker's invitation to speak)

Speaker:

Is any member going to speak?

(The Speaker said she expected the seconder of the Motion to speak before anyone else speaks)

MP Daniel Lugay:

I'm am ready to speak when my leader is allowed to complete his presentation, you are denying him his presentation

(The Speaker added that the word 'demon' were stated in different circumstances and "the fact of the matter is even if I were to say something about myself does that mean somebody else is free to say it?")

(MP Baptiste suggested that maybe the Government Members of Parliament should speak on the Motion but the Speaker said she was expecting the Seconder to speak first but that that was a practice and not a rule of the House

She then allowed Linton's 45 minutes allocated for the motion to elapse)

Speaker:

I'll wait a couple minutes and I'll put it (the Motion) to the vote. I don't have a choice

(At the vote all elected members of parliament on the Government's side voted against the Motion. All opposition members of parliament stayed silent when they were asked to vote except Joshua Francis, the Member of Parliament for the Roseau South constituency who abstained)

(When the House of Assembly resumed the following day the Speaker read the transcripts of the meeting of the House of 26 June 2016 when the issue of the "demon" statements came up.)

Speaker:

It is not I who called myself demon and it is not okay to continue that insult to my face

(The Speaker referred to the incident of the previous day then added…)

Speaker:

The ruling and authority of the Chair must be adhered to at all times. I hope the member for Marigot, the Leader of the Opposition, that by now you are processing how rude and out of order and wrong you were

In spite of your unprincipled behaviour, in spite of your lack of order and common decency, I gave all the time, I gave all the time in the world to reflect and do the honourable thing. You had sufficient time to make your contribution after you apologised. You had your full 45 minutes, you chose not to apologise

Member of the Opposition, I want to make it clear therefore that my ruling concerning apologising to the chair before taking part in the debate continues. You will not be allowed to speak on any matter coming before the House for the rest of this session unless you apologise. And I so rule

Linton:

I just want to be clear what your ruling was this morning because yesterday we had an incident and we went on with the sitting of parliament. Moving on with the sitting of parliament involved me as the member for the Marigot constituency posing a question to the minister responsible for foreign affairs. So I did in fact participate in the affairs of parliament subsequent to the incident that caused some concern yesterday

You're not returning to that incident yesterday and ruling that what- I will not be participating any further in the affairs of this parliament?

Speaker:

(Read the last paragraph of her earlier statement)- Member of the Opposition, I want to make it clear therefore that my ruling concerning apologising to the chair before taking part in the debate continues. You will not be allowed to speak on any matter coming before the House for the rest of this session unless you apologise. And I so rule

…And that, dear member, is the end of the matter until you apologise, until you apologise, I will not hear you

(Speaker puts off Linton's mike. Linton continues to stand)

Speaker:

I'm asking the member to take his seat, please

Linton:

I'm not going to sit down

Speaker:

Sergeant at Arms! Sergeant at Arms! Can you escort the member out, please?

Linton:

There's no need for that, Sergeant at Arms… I'm already leaving

Speaker:

This is the parliament where the Speaker presides…this is just intolerable, absolutely intolerable, a member you treats the House like a studio, like he is before a console. It is absolutely reprehensible and I as a person presiding cannot allow members to abuse the House in such a manner

(As Linton picks up his bag and papers the Speaker says "it is obvious that the member is much more comfortable before a console and he may be going there)

Linton walked out. The Sergeant at Arms stayed at arm's length behind him as he exited the side door.