Let’s be honest. Was Allen Chastanet denied the opportunity to speak or did he deny himself the right to speak? As Leader of the Opposition (LOO), he has a right to speak in the House of Assembly, but he does not have the right to demand when he speaks. House rules are designed to allow the majority to govern fairly.
The Leader of the Opposition’s responsibility during a budget debate is to respond to the policy proposals presented by the Minister of Finance; it is not to respond to every accusation or charge made against him by other members of parliament. It is for this reason that the Leader of the Opposition is conventionally the first to respond. If what is being said by other members of parliament about the LOO is perceived as inaccurate, he has the right to challenge it by rising on the appropriate standing order: misleading the house, seeking clarification. Of course, that would require the LOO to sit through the entire sitting to address any inaccuracies as they arise.
We have to remember the behavior of Allen Chastanet when he was Prime Minister; he broke every rule and convention if it did not serve his interest. For those who do not remember, here are some examples: refused to use the power of his majority to appoint a deputy speaker; against procurement rules, ordered $7million to be paid in advance for vaccines we never received; refused to withdraw unparliamentary language when ordered to do so by the then speaker Andy Daniel; addressed a news reporter as a liar; consistently lied about a hidden fuel tax imposed by the last Labour administration, until he unwittingly withdrew the lie; awarded an unprecedented number of government contacts without tender and imposed an excise tax on fuel beyond what was agreed in the parliament. These are just a few examples of his flagrant disregard for rules and convention.
There is a clear pattern of behavior about Allen Chastanet; he believes, he can do as he pleases. For those who may be afraid to call a spade a spade, Allen Chastanet believes he is entitled and this may well have its route in what is called white privilege. Imagine the prime minister of Saint Lucia publicly admitting he is a product of a foreign country. A suggestion that Saint Lucia, a country he was called upon by the citizens to lead, was less of a country to be proud of. And as if to leave little doubt in the minds of Saint Lucians of his pride in that foreign country, he reminded them that he had even sent his children to school there.
It’s against this background that the Labour government had a moral responsibility to the majority of Saint Lucians who voted him out of office, to bring a complete end to Allen Chastanet’s disrespect for Saint Lucians, by refusing him his imagined right to speak at a time of his choosing irrespective of the desire of the elected majority.
Allen Chastanet denied himself the right to speak in the parliament. To assert that the government Mpees denied him that right is another of his usual distortions of the truth.