Parliamentarians need to raise the bar

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I still hear the echoes of the commanding voice of the late Dr Eric Eustace Williams, first prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and then leader of the People’s National Movement; Mr Simbhoonath Capildeo, then-leader of the Democratic Labour Party, pleading on behalf of the Opposition; and the warrior, Mr Bhadase Sagan Maraj, humbly addressing the chair, ‘Mr Speaker, Sa.’

Those were the days when the two existing radio stations were our only means to see the behaviour of our parliamentarians and hear the debates.

People with ‘broughtupcy’ will curse the technology of the day for bringing a derogatory version of Parliament into our homes. I will not tune in to this channel again, for fear of perverting my smart TV.

If children of school age are to watch Parliament in progress, I strongly suggest they do so with parental guidance.

I can’t believe this is what we inherited from the colonial master or what our interpretation of the House of Lords and the House of Commons is. There is no respect for the Speaker, who very often has to become embroiled in a shouting match to discipline, threaten or expel members of the House.

The language is unbecoming of people who represent their communities or the citizenry and have professional qualifications. A marketplace minus adult language is a fitting description.

The late Freddie Kissoon, looking from beyond, might mistake the scene for a rerun of his Calabash Alley. In and out of Parliament, the uncouth and despicable behaviour continues. The gutter behaviour of our parliamentarians is reflected in the breakdown of our social, economic and political institutions.

A school for parliamentarians was suggested, but never materialised. Such a ‘protocol school’ should be on the front burner, especially for the ‘green horns’.

However, before the behaviour hits rock bottom, I want present and future parliamentarians to know these ‘Nos’: • No walkouts. It is discourteous to exit Parliament when a fellow member is presenting. You are obligated to sit, listen, analyse and then criticise. You are not representing yourself, but the citizens. Walking off the job warrants loss of income.

• No name-calling or use of ill-names. Dignity must prevail at all times. Live up to the titles ‘The Right’, ‘The Honourable’ and ‘The Member’.

• No abuse of parliamentary privilege. This is not a forum for gossip and slander. Let the business of the nation be your focus at all times.

• No sleeping. Guardians are to be always alert to protect the interest and the welfare of the citizens.

• No inappropriate reading of newspapers. Government or Opposition must be respectful of all presentations. Attending to cellphones is equally disrespectful.

• No desk-thumping. A round of applause can be used as congratulations for excellent remarks.

• No telecast of debates unless the behaviour is impeccable.

• No critique or compromise

should be made unless they are the views of the people you represent.

Both Government and Opposition represent the people, and are responsible for success or failure in any endeavour. Let’s raise the bar, parliamentarians. You are on candid camera.

Lennox Francis
Couva