Former Prime Minister Stephenson King has defended his non-participation in Tuesday’s budget debate which ended abruptly in a controversy over whether government and opposition MPs alternate their contributions to the house.
King did not make a presentation to the debate which saw a walkout by opposition MPs.
“My contribution does not reside entirely at budget debates – I can make statements whenever I so desire,” the Minister for Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour told reporters Thursday.
King explained that the government operates according to a plan, led by the Prime Minister.
“The Prime Minister did put in a plan as far as the speaking order is concerned and I believe in that collective responsibility approach,” he stated.
King said once the plan was outlined he agreed to follow it.
He disclosed that on Tuesday the plan was for him to be the second speaker on the government side.
“However after the first speaker on the opposition side – and my understanding was that there should have been a second speaker on the opposition side – the Prime Minister chose to end the debate and circumvented the need for any of us who were remaining speakers to make our contribution,” King said.
“Notwithstanding, that does not mitigate the potential for making relevant statements in future sessions of the parliament to address the nation and to update the nation on the work of the Ministry of Infrastructure,” King, who attended an ecumenical service at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to mark Public Service Day, said.
The former Prime Minister declared that he was not there to debate what pattern the contributions in parliament should take.
“When I was Prime Minister, I agreed on an approach to the debate. The approach was – you consult with the opposition, get agreement on a speaking order and we follow that speaking order,” King stated.
He explained that the Prime Minister of the day would have adopted his own approach.
“We as members of the government follow the approach that he has agreed to,” he said.
Opposition leader, Philip J. Pierre, had accused Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of contempt for the parliament and the people of Saint Lucia.
Pierre argued that it was normal convention that a government member would speak after an opposition MP makes a presentation to the debate.
He said Chastanet refused to allow senior members of his government to speak.
Chastanet, on the other hand, accused the opposition of being unprepared.