EVEN before she could make her first speech in the House of Representatives, newly-elected UNC St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen incurred the wrath of Speaker Brigid Annisette-George and leader of government business Camille Robinson- Regis.
However, it was not for any crosstalk in the House that Robinson-Regis was tempted to move a motion of privileges against Ameen on Friday night, but her Facebook posts.
Ameen, in an immediate response on her page, maintained she did nothing wrong and had no intention of offending the standing orders of Parliament.
“They are clearly looking for a bacchanal and a distraction after their first day of poor presentations by their MPs. Nice try. Come again. #LongWaterySteups,” she posted after the parliamentary proceedings.
It was at the end of the first day of the budget debate, led off by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar hours earlier at 10 am, that Robinson-Regis brought Ameen’s posts to the Speaker’s attention.
“This is the House of Representatives and in here, whilst we argue the great political issues of the day, we respect each other and we respect the chair of this House.
“We are offended that one who sits amongst us, who just arrived here, is posting on Facebook during a sitting of this House, not just juvenile and puerile comments about our work in this august House, but comments also seemingly to reflect on the chair of this House.”
“We will have none of that,” she told the Speaker in reference to some of Ameen's posts, which read, “Like is only the Opposition involved in crosstalk? Don’t get put out”; “Stewart (Stuart Young) yuh still blaming Kamla boy?”; “We have a New Minister of Energy?”
Robinson-Regis appealed to the Speaker to caution the new MP, “before I am obliged to move a formal motion of privileges at this early stage of the session.
“If that was the habit of that member when she sat in the other place, we here–” she paused as the Speaker interrupted.
“I know where you are going with that, but I think you should just leave that. I realise that the member has now arrived here,” Annisette-George said.
Robinson-Regis continued, “But Madam Speaker, we here will neither entertain nor condone any of that type of behaviour. I just wanted to draw that to your attention, because that is not what we are accustomed to.”
Saying she was aware of the posts prior to their nbeing raised, Annisette-George made it clear, “Each member of this House is entitled to be addressed by the term ‘honourable.’
“Consequently, a certain decorum is expected of each of its members that specifically pertains to the regard and respect which members must hold for the dignity of this House.
“The duty to safeguard, uphold and protect the dignity of this House is intrinsic to this membership. For a member to encourage or engage in a practice of disregard for the dignity of this House is analogous to the medical condition of myasthenia gravis (a long-term neuromuscular disease that leads to varying degrees of skeletal muscle weakness).
“The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the post of the MP for St Augustine, that it is a reflection of this House and this chair which has intended wittingly or unwittingly to impinge (on its) dignity.”
She said the Parliament is new and so too is the conduct.
“It is not only to be regarded as unparliamentary and maybe requiring an apology, but it is not to be elevated as a practice.”
The Speaker said this could lead to very serious consequences if continued and asked for guidance from the more experienced parliamentarians.
Recognising that many of the MPs are new and may not be familiar with the standing orders, she asked the clerk of the House to circulate the procedures to members.
Ameen's Facebook page was a day-long series of comments supporting Persad-Bissessar's criticisms of the 2020/2021 budget presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert last Monday.
“The Blame-Kamla-Strategy of the PNM has a ‘sell by’ date and that strategy has expired” – KPB"; "Collapse of Point Lisias due to botched leadership of PM Keith Rowley’s deals with upstream companies #TTBudget2021"; "Property Tax will mean increased RENT for those who cannot afford their own homes" were some of her early posts.
Ameen was an Opposition senator in the last Parliament and was elected as the St Augustine MP in the August 10 general election.