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Opposition parties, the United Progressive Party and Barbuda People’s Movement, maintained their boycott of Parliament yesterday despite being criticized for their absence earlier this week.
Yesterday, the Senate convened to discuss and approve the government’s budget of EC$1.89 million, without input from opposition Senators Shawn Nicholas, Alex Browne, David Massiah, Johnathan Joseph, and Fabian Jones, who chose to remain absent along with Leader of the Opposition Jamale Pringle and his MP colleagues.
The opposition MPs had previously refused to participate in the budget debate on Tuesday, protesting that they had not been given enough time to prepare.
They alleged that the government was attempting to rush the debate by holding it two days earlier than they had requested. During yesterday’s session, Senate President Alincia Williams-Grant expressed disappointment at the opposition’s absence.
She stated that it was an honor to sit in the halls of Parliament and that she had made every effort to ensure that Senators were accommodated leading up to the budget debate, as far back as November 2.
She further added that she had even discussed with Senators who had travel plans and had liaised with the advisor, the clerk, the legislative draft team, and the Attorney General to make sure everyone was accommodated.
She expressed her confusion at how a one-month shift in the parliamentary calendar meant that people who held high office and expected to be treated as important were claiming that they did not have enough time to prepare for the budget, which was the most significant bill.
She argued that Senators have consistently used the budgetary estimates as part of their presentation during the budget debate, with party politics often dominating the proceedings instead of fiscal issues.
She emphasized that as legislators, they must equip themselves with the knowledge needed to fulfill their functions of reviewing and scrutinizing the proposals of the executive that come to them through bills, statutory instruments, and resolutions.
She added that it was not just about following the party line and playing politics, and walking out of Parliament because they did not get the bill in advance for as long as they wanted was no longer acceptable.
Williams-Grant explained that the people were growing weary, and the opposition’s action was not helping matters.