Friday, December 15, 2017

Senate president entitled to his opinion

 Trinidadians love to make a mountain out of a molehill, often with little knowledge of the subject. The recent hue and cry over private correspondence by the president of the Senate is such a case in point. 

While the speakers of many parliaments, especially the USA, remain partisan, it is the tradition in the two British Houses of Parliament that the speaker gives up all party politics and remains scrupulously independent in managing his role as speaker. The speaker may continue to represent a constituen­cy, and it is only in his role as speaker that he does not express political opinions. 

In this instance, we must con­si­der that constitutional reform should also be bipartisan and non-political. Indeed, the Prime Minister indicates there should be a conscience vote not confined to party positions. 

Also consider, the president of the Senate’s letter referred to procedure within Parliament and expressed no opinion on the merits of the legislation. He is the officer responsible for procedure.

I personally therefore see no issue with the president of the Senate expressing an opinion publicly on a procedural matter on constitutional reform. However, this opinion was expressed in private correspon­dence. I was always taught it was unacceptable to read other people’s private correspondence or to cause it to be published, unless on a matter of urgent national importance. 

It seems like some believe the president of the Senate must have no opinion on constitutional reform and express no views, even in private. But we see no ethical dilemma in publishing his private correspondence. Go figure. 

William Lucie-Smith

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