President Paula-Mae Weekes
PORT-OF-SPAIN – PRESIDENT Paula-Mae Weekes has lashed out against the behavior of Trinidad and Tobago’s Parliamentarians.
She said, “Even the most casual observer of the proceedings of our Parliament would be concerned about how the people’s business is being conducted.
“Those who follow vividly might well be alarmed.
“Walkouts, put outs, distrust, thinly-veiled insults, inability to arrive at consensus quickly, if at all, on the simplest of issues, referrals to the privileges committee, whether to apologise or not, all those seem to take precedence over formulating laws for the good of our citizens.”
The president was speaking today at the opening ceremony of the 44th Annual Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and the Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), held at the Hyatt Regency.
Weekes urged MPs to maintain the highest standards in the Parliament, saying the nation’s youth “will consider what they see us do to be appropriate and so mimic and perpetuate the standards that we set”.
She said, “Debates will become passionate, even heated, but our representatives must model the highest standards of dignity, respect and civility while in the Chamber.”
Weekes said the core function of the Parliament is essential and purposeful.
“What does the average man in the street think about what goes on in there? Forty years ago one of our calypsonians, Explainer, expressed it this way. Referring to our lawmakers, he composed the song entitled They Kicksin’ in Parliament”.
She said Parliament can appear to be a “glorified talk-shop governed by self-interest and partisanship” to the average citizen. And she noted that 19th Century journalist Walter Bagehot described it, as “nothing less than a big meeting of more or less idle people”.
Weekes said, “These stereotypical labels are unfortunate and misplaced when we consider the critical role that the Parliament plays in a functional and well-run democracy, but as Harvey Lee Atwater, American political consultant during the (Ronald) Reagan years said…perception is reality”.