Published On: Mon, Jan 21st, 2019

Chairlady Wescot-Williams: “My role is to facilitate the workings of Parliament, not assuage the opposition

File Photo Parliamentary meeting

Philipsburg St. Maarten, January 21, 2019 – “I started my New Year’s address with a quote from Hal Borland: ‘Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.’ – I mention this to emphasize that we learn and grow from experience – at least we should. Much in the news lately from opposition Members in Parliament, has been the role of the Chairperson of Parliament. Now, the fact that the opposition will always find reasons to criticize the Chair is a given, that is expected. However, my role is not to assuage the opposition, so they do not criticize, my role is to facilitate the workings of Parliament.” stated Chairlady of Parliament Wescot-Williams.

In this equation the Chairlady expounded “you have a majority and a minority. That’s democracy. It is customary to request meetings and invite Ministers to the House’s floor, when in actuality, bringing a Minister in a public meeting is a decision of the Parliament as an entity, not of those requesting a meeting. I, in any case have been lenient, however if this is the manner in which we want to operate, then I will be very formal on these points. When a meeting is convened and members go in all directions with their questioning, is it surprising that Ministers go and take their time coming back? If they don’t have the answers at hand, is the Chairperson expected to drag them to Parliament? At least when questions are submitted in writing, they are more precise, void of the sometimes lengthy narratives and diatribes. What is the aim, do we want information and answers that the public can use or do we want to show who can upstage whom?”

“As often as I have explained the objective of so-called urgent meetings, some Members of Parliament continue to belabor the point as a right of Members of Parliament to demand an urgent meeting. If that was indeed the case, every three or more Members of Parliament requesting a meeting should say it is urgent and we get meeting after meeting, Ministers come and go, come back etc. Members should understand and know when to use the instrument of written questions, oral questions, public meeting or other meeting(s). Ministers are given all reason to procrastinate when knowingly or not, questions from members come from every angle; when we send Ministers on wild goose chases with stories and insinuations. What do we expect? And several Members of Parliament, including myself have sat on that side of the table and should know. I have stated time and time again that Parliament’s Rules of Order need upgrading, which is an ongoing process. We are moving ahead and noteworthy are the changes, instituting the question hour and establishing that responses to questions submitted in writing be forthcoming within three weeks.” she continued.

Committee meetings, another such thing, Wescot-Williams explained, that “these Committees of Parliament are not little silos, they are part and parcel of the procedures of Parliament. Their ultimate goal is to advise the entire Parliament regarding specific matters of interest to Parliament and not to individual members.”