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Basseterre, St. Kitts, July 30, 2019 (SKNIS): A formal apology demanded by Leader of the Opposition Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas from Speaker Hon. A. Michael Perkins was rejected in the National Assembly today (30th July), but an explanation proffered over the opposition leader’s absence from the fourth sitting of the OECS Assembly held on June 17, 2019, in Antigua and Barbuda.

In a letter to the Speaker of the House dated June 27th, 2019, Dr. Douglas accused the Speaker of “exclusion of the Parliamentary Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition in particular from the national delegation” that attended the OECS Assembly.

“This is unacceptable, and I wish with this letter to place on record my displeasure and abhorrence over what can be considered as a deliberate act by yourself, in your capacity as the Speaker of the National Assembly, to exclude the participation of the two representatives of the Parliamentary Opposition of St. Kitts and Nevis from the recently concluded sitting of the OECS Assembly. Such a deliberate act flies in the face of the very democratic principles of transparency, openness, responsiveness and accountability that the OECS Assembly was created to defend,” Dr. Douglas wrote in his letter.    

However, Speaker Perkins rebuffed Dr. Douglas’ letter in a response written to him dated July 29, 2019.

“Having read your letter, I immediately thought and have since become convinced that it was misdirected, that is, you must have sent it to the wrong person! I arrived at that conclusion since the allegations levelled against me were completely unfounded,” said Speaker Perkins, while adding “furthermore, by placing the letter in the public domain a few days after you sent it-without giving me an adequate opportunity to properly respond, as promised-I found that to be rather unfortunate.”  

“It must be pointed out to you, Sir, that the Standing Orders of our Parliament do not stipulate or speak to any role that the Clerk, Speaker or our Parliament, has with respect to the functioning of and/or a relationship to the OECS Assembly; neither is there any legislation which does so. I would have thought therefore, Honourable Member, that you would have apprised yourself of such facts, before penning such an unfortunate and accusatory letter to me,” Speaker Perkins added. “You indicated in your correspondence that you were a signatory to the Treaty which brought the Assembly into being, so you must have known that our Parliament has no role in the functioning of the Assembly. It therefore lies beyond my comprehension why you would have chosen to write such a letter.”

Making reference to Article 10 of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, which speaks to the composition of the membership of the OECS Assembly, the Speaker said that “our Parliament can only assume any authority to select or nominate any of its Member to serve in the OECS Assembly, if, and only if, a Resolution – setting out the exact procedure to do so – is approved by our Parliament. Our research shows that no such Resolution was ever passed or even considered since the establishment of the OECS Assembly in 2012.” 

Speaker Perkins added: “In the absence then of such a Resolution, or authority, I am of the view that the Government and the Opposition can simply select their members and advise the Secretariat of OECS Commission. Of particular note, is the fact that I have been advised, that this indeed has been the practice. As it stands now, all this has absolutely nothing to do with the functioning or any role of our Parliament or that of me as Speaker.”

The Honourable Speaker said that he had “been in contact with each and every Speaker of the Parliaments of the OECS, and EACH has indicated the exact position articulated herein, that is, none of us selects any Member of our respective Parliaments to attend OECS Assembly sittings.” 

“Under the circumstances then, Hon. Member, I would leave it to you and your good conscience to consider whether you should publicly acknowledge that your letter to me was indeed completely unfounded. I would further leave it to you to consider apologizing to me,” Speaker Perkins concluded.

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