SENATE President Christine Kangaloo intervened early during Friday's sitting of the Senate, to resolve a disagreement over speaking times in the debate on the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation)(Financial Year 2021) Bill, 2021.
Leader of Government Business Clarence Rambharat advised Kangaloo that agreement was reached among the Government, Opposition Senator Wade Mark and Independent Senator Paul Richards on speaking times for senators in the debate, in accordance with Standing Order 117.
This standing order involves an agreement among government, opposition and independent benches for the conduct of business in the Senate during a particular period of time.
Rambharat said the agreement was for Finance Minister Colm Imbert to speak for 40 minutes as the person starting the debate. He said the first responders on the Opposition and Independent benches would also each have 40 minutes.
Rambharat said all subsequent speakers, including Imbert when he concludes the debate, would each speak for 20 minutes.
"The speakers on the Opposition bench, will use best efforts to speak within that 20 minutes."
Reminding senators that on Fridays the curfew associated with the state of emergency (SoE) begins at 7 pm, Rambharat said there was agreement on all sides "that today's sitting would be concluded by 4.30 pm."
Mark said the Opposition never agreed to this arrangement.
Kangaloo asked Rambharat whether or not this was so. He replied, "Government has made concessions, in terms of the number of speakers that we have in the debate." He said the Independent bench has also made similar concessions.
"As a result, the Opposition will be able to field their five speakers if they wish to."
Opposition Senator Anil Roberts was granted leave by Kangaloo from the sitting.
Rambharat said, "I am resolute in my view that there is an agreement."
Kangaloo reminded senators that they are not the only participants in the sitting.
"It is about support staff..there is work to be done before, during and after the sitting. When everyone else in this chamber leaves, there is more work to be done."
She said the Parliament's staff must be able to complete its work and be able to leave well ahead of the curfew start.
Kangaloo asked Rambharat, Mark and Richards whether there was agreement to end the sitting by 4.30 pm. "That's all I want to know now."
Rambharat said, "We are very clear that the intention is to complete...not to complete the sitting...but the bill that is before us by 4.30 pm."
He added, "Pursuant to that, I actually timed it and shared it with the Clerk (of the Senate) that assuming a start at 10.30 am and given the time limits agreed, this will take us to 4.30 pm."
Mark said, "A proposal cannot be imposed on the Opposition."
Kangaloo told Mark, "The simple question that I am putting at this stage is that we are completing deliberations of the bill and completing the proceedings today by 4.30 pm."
Mark replied, "We shall work towards completing this bill at 4.30 pm. We shall work towards that."
Richard said, "Yes Madam President. That is the understanding."