PNM Tobago Council political leader Ancil Dennis says there was no need to cancel Thursday’s sitting of the THA because of the absence of the Clerk of the House.
In an unprecedented development on Thursday, Deputy Presiding Officer Joel Sampson said the plenary sitting had to be cancelled because the clerk did not arrive for work.
He also claimed the clerk did not tell him nor the Presiding Officer (Abby Taylor) that she would be absent from the sitting.
Sampson said there is no current deputy clerk, notwithstanding the fact that the position was created by Cabinet note number 2886 on October 14, 2004.
He noted both the law and standing orders are silent about what should happen should the Clerk of the House be absent from a sitting.
Sampson said the standing orders of the THA require that the absence of the Presiding Officer is announced by the clerk, while the deputy is invited to act.
But in a post on his Facebook page on Friday, Dennis said, “The reality is that there was no reason for yesterday’s (Thursday’s) cancellation. THA Act and standing orders allow sittings to occur in the absence of the Presiding Officer and even a certain number of members as long as a quorum is present and it certainly does allow sittings to take place in the absence of the clerk.”
He continued, “The clerk herself does not take minutes of sittings as there is an office with the resources and staffing to do so and the business of the House could have definitely gone on in her absence.”
Even so, Dennis said he did not blame Sampson “as I am sure he was ill-advised by the Presiding Officer and possibly Chief Secretary (Farley Augustine).”
He claimed their intention might have been to embarrass the clerk, “which is symptomatic of the arrogance and blatant disrespect for public servants that now pervades our political leadership on the island.”
Dennis advised public servants to “stay strong and professional in these unprecedented challenging times.”
He described Sampson’s justification for cancelling the sitting as “shocking and nonsensical.
“One would shudder to think that our prestigious and august house in which our most important business of governance is dispatched can be seriously jeopardised by the absence of this one clerk, whom, by the way, I am sure communicated her situation and absence in reasonable time as I know her to be a professional and committed public servant who probably never missed a sitting before yesterday (Thursday).”