BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – DESPITE making requests for apologies during the last sitting of the Federal Parliament concerning comments made at the previous sitting, neither the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas nor Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Mark Brantley was in receipt of any.
The last sitting of Parliament convened on Thursday (Ap. 26) and saw Brantley requesting that Dr. Douglas offer an apology for comments which he (Brantley), along with members of the public, felt imputed improper motives on his part.
In providing an explanation for his point of view, Brantley indicated that during the late March 2012 sitting of Parliament, Prime Minister Douglas made comments which – in Brantley’s view – suggested that he collects monies from the Treasury for an office of the Leader of the Opposition when there is none.
“The statement that I have difficulty with is that the Honourable Member for Number Six is speaking to monies that he claimed were leaving the Treasury, sought to suggest that I as Leader of the Opposition, in my capacity as Leader of the Opposition, was somehow collecting sums for a secretary and collecting sums for an office of Leader of the Opposition.
“The precise words…that he used ‘Is there any office? Wah happen to the money? Weh de’ money goin’? Money goes out of the Treasury every single month. There is no secretary, there is no office but every single month money goes out of the Treasury for that office. Then they talk about corruption. Where is the money being collected from the Treasury?’”
The Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition explained that he took umbrage to the comments especially since 1. he is not collecting monies from the Treasury for an office of the Leader of the Opposition, 2. the comments were made by Dr. Douglas, Minister of Finance, who should be fully aware of what enters and exits the Treasury and 3. Dr. Douglas suggested that he is engaging in corrupt practices.
Brantley assured Parliament that the monies he collects from the Treasury do not include money for an office of the Leader of Opposition and asked that PM Douglas provide both an explanation of his comments and an apology.
According to Dr. Douglas’ explanation however, “there was no improper motives imputed from the statements I made in this National Assembly on March 23, 2012”.
And in recounting the statements he made then, the Prime Minister further expressed that “It is unfortunate if the Leader of the Opposition interprets what I said to have been some improper motive intended on my part.
“…Every single year since he has been the Leader of the Opposition, thousands of dollars are passed in this Parliament for an office for the Leader of the Opposition…The Question that people must ask him is, ‘Is there any office and what happened to the money?’ That’s what should be asked…Is there any office for the Leader of the Opposition where money has voted for every single year in this Parliament? And what happened to that money? Where is the money going?
“Oh, there is also, Mr. Speaker, an office to be paid for, a secretary to be paid for. Where is the secretary? And I can tell you the money goes out of the Treasury every single month for the Secretary. There is no secretary, there is no office. But every single month the money goes out of the Treasury for that secretary, for that office…But where is the secretary? And then they talk about corruption and talk about cutting back on people’s salary. He is responsible for the secretary. Where is the secretary working? Where is the money that is being collected from the Treasury for a secretary?”
Speaker of the National Assembly the Hon. Curtis Martin disagreed with Brantley, indicating that in his view Prime Minister Douglas did not suggest that Brantley is paid monies from the Treasury for an office and a secretary. But rather, he posed a number of questions which – in the interest of transparency, responsibility and professionalism – need to be answered.
The Hon. Speaker said he could not demand an apology from PM Douglas as he – in his view – engaged in no wrongdoing; a position which was accepted by Brantley.
Nonetheless, Dr. Douglas requested that Brantley withdraw his earlier accusation against him.
And while Brantley accepted that his interpretation of Dr. Douglas’ statements was “wrong”, he explained that if he had had the benefit of Dr. Douglas’ explanation earlier he might not have had to express the view that he did. Thus, Brantley expressed, “I don’t intend to impute anything to him…at all.”
A call was made to Parliamentarians by the legislative body’s Chair to have respect for each other and to choose their words wisely so as to not put forward the wrong image to the public.
This sitting of Parliament was adjourned until tomorrow (May 1).