Saturday, October 27, 2012

Letter: Who pays when people waste Parliament's time"

Graphic courtesy Allan Karim
Dear Editor,

As a rule of thumb, in our Law Courts, when a person loses a case (having brought an action that is patently frivolous, vexatious and of no merit), that person is ordered to stand his costs and the costs incurred by the winning side as well. 

The Parliament is the highest Court of Law, why don't similar rules apply in Parliament as in our Law Courts?

I ask the question having observed (for the second time in less than twelve months) Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley (of the People's National Movement), has caused the Parliament to consume very valuable parliamentary time and other resources to file and discuss a motion of No Confidence that was doomed from the outset, given the configuration of Parliament. 

Each time, inevitably, parliamentary staff, security staff, catering services and so on, go into overdrive in order to facilitate, accommodate and expedite the debate. 

Furthermore, given the very nature of a Motion of No Confidence (if it succeeds, a government may fall), more than likely every government Ministry would incur additional costs: by assigning special teams to research and compile briefing documents for the relevant Minister, whether or not he or she is the direct target of the No Confidence Motion. 

Nothing in life is free. Who then pays for the things I've identified? The extra expenditure must run into the millions. Are such costs included when preparing the National Budget?

Some may counter it is fair or fitting to write-off such costs on the ground they are part of the price we have to pay for our democracy's preservation. In the context mentioned above, I disagree: every No Confidence Motion brought by Dr Rowley has fizzled, despite his pre-debate fanfarons about dropping bombshells!

In the world of regular courts, over the past couple decades we have seen where case management processes have been employed in a move aimed quicken the pace where disputes could be settled. The consequence of case management is that, as a rule, less time is spent in court trials, in other words, the court's time is not wasted. 

If Parliament is the highest Court of Law, why not "case manage" there too? Allow me to recommend that, in future:
  1. A No Confidence Motion must have the signatures of at least half, less one, of the members of the House where the Motion is being filed. If the proposer cannot one-on-one convince a fellow parliamentarian to support him, how can he collectively?
  2. The mover of the motion must state all his arguments in writing at the time he's filing his motion: this would eliminate hotheaded filings, plus let the "defence" prepare precisely by establishing a cuttoff point for the "offence(s)" which triggered the motion in the first place
  3. Let the Honourable Speaker be the sole judge as to whether the motion has merit, which he shall do by bringing the mover and the target together in a case management session
Otherwise, seeing what presently gives with the PNM (as was mentioned by Dr Roodal Moonilal, I believe, in the No Confidence debate yesterday evening), every six months Trinidad and Tobago shall be dealing with a No Confidence Motion that has no hope of succeeding, in the process incurring what, by my calculations, has to be millions of dollars to execute...taxpayers' money, mind you.

In light of my above suggestions (in the meanwhile too), I'm also recommending the Constitution and or Standing Orders of Parliament be amended to fine parliamentarians for wasting the Parliament's time, the same way anyone can be fined for wasting the court's time.

Liz Awai, (Cellphone: 731 3355) | Bagatelle, Diego Martin, Trinidad.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai