PM Douglas lays out reasons to seek parliamentary approval to increase the number of senators in the National Assembly

Government side in the National Assembly during recent sitting.

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, NOVEMBER 20TH 2012 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas says the need for three additional senators in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly while justified will be of minimal cost to the twin-island federation.

Responding to a question during his weekly radio programme “Ask the Prime Minister” on Tuesday, Dr. Douglas said there is also need to shore up the administrative management of the Parliament.

“The (Parliamentary) agenda is becoming very, very compact. The debates are taking longer and we believe that it is important to give the Parliament the opportunity to elect one of our senators as the Deputy Speaker of the House,” Dr. Douglas told listeners.

He reminded them that before the present Parliament opened in March of 2010, “we met with the opposition as we have done in the past, trying to get a member of the opposition to also assist in the Parliament as the Deputy Speaker. None of them accepted it.”

“We nevertheless went to the Parliament on the morning, and we went through the exercise of nominating a Member of the Opposition (Sen. the Hon. Vincent Byron Jr.), since there are no other persons available on the government’s side to become the deputy speaker. The opposition refused the offer and so one of the ministers of government had to resign his ministerial responsibilities, in order to get the house properly started, to do the people’s work after the elections of January 2010, and we’ve managed so far, but we cannot continue like that,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

He said that it is the duty as the Government, to attempt to bring to the Parliament, yet another opportunity for the Parliament to elect a deputy speaker.

Dr. Douglas said according to the St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution of 1983 with regard to the number of senators to the number of elected persons, “we are proposing to increase the number by three, so that two could on to the Government side and one addition on the Opposition Side.”

He said that if passed by the Parliament, any of the three new senators, can then be nominated and elected to become the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament.

Lone Opposition member, Sen. the Hon. Vincent Byron Jr. during recent sitting. (Photos by Erasmus Williams)

“I don’t see anything big about that. They are not Ministers of Government. The salaries for the senators are minimal. They are minimal. They are not Ministers of Government who we will have to pay ministerial salaries,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

“No one is trying to impose new Ministers of Government; we do not intend to do that. It is simply to increase the number of senators so that our parliament would have the opportunity to nominate and elect a non-government minister who is a senator to become Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly which is our Parliament,” said Dr. Douglas.

He again reiterated that the cost to the Federation will be minimal, “because the salary of a senator is not a very high salary.”

Dr. Douglas also pointed out that in the previous Parliament, the now Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the Honourable Patrice Nisbett, who was sitting on the opposition side, served as Deputy Speaker.

“It is because we have waited and we have continued to ask for the support and cooperation of the opposition, and it has failed so to do, that’s why we are in fact, resorting to this particular idea of increasing the number of senators, so that we would have one of the senators, if not on the opposition side, then on the government’s side become the deputy speaker,” Prime Minister Douglas added.

“It is the members of the House, opposite, who continue to say that the House is not properly constituted. We believe the House is properly constituted, but we don’t want any confusion, because by not having a Deputy Speaker it has become problematic,” said the Prime Minister.

“Legally we believe we should be able to function, but of course there are human costs to all of this, and we need to make sure that people’s health is being protected. That is why we are saying that we need to increase the number of senators,” Dr. Douglas said, in reference to the long hours that the Speaker the Hon. Curtis Martin has to sit in the Speakers chair without having a break or even to have lunch.

He said each one of his ministers in the Government, who has been an elected person, is already carrying several portfolios in his or her ministry.

Dr. Douglas said that the Ministry of Finance has advised that payment to the three senators can be easily managed in the Fiscal Year 2012 and the upcoming Fiscal Year 2013.

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