Anil fails to catch Speaker’s eye on leave request

House Speaker Wade Mark said yesterday it was very unfortunate a Member of Parliament did not think it more prudent to contact the Speaker, or even to visit his office where he regularly meets with MPs, to discuss matters which may in any way relate to their function as a Member of Parliament.
“I do not have any intention to accept an invitation to hold a discussion with any Member of Parliament via the media,” said Mark.
He was responding to the boycott of Parliament by Sport Minister Anil Roberts last Friday, on the issue of his (Mark’s) award of the Executive Master of Business degree by the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The matter provoked controversy following the resignation of Brian Ghent, programme director at the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business, on the issue.
In a letter to Mark, Roberts cited reports that Mark received concessions from the UWI and that he wrote to the institution on the Speaker’s letterhead.
Roberts asked Mark to respond publicly or privately to his concerns and questioned whether the Speaker sought any concessions to obtain his degree, if so what concessions, why were they sought and whether he used the letterhead of the Speaker of the House of Representatives while communicating with the staff at the ALJ School of Business.
Roberts also requested leave of absence.
“I therefore humbly request your leave to absent myself from today’s sitting ... as my mind, spirit and very being are not at this time settled enough for me to take part in the manner expected through convention, practice and history of our beloved Parliament,” he stated in the letter.
Asked yesterday whether he granted leave to Roberts, Mark said no, he didn’t grant him leave.
Asked why, Mark suggested that the Express contact the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
Checks with the Office of the Clerk revealed that Roberts’s letter was received by the Office of the Parliament too late to be considered in time for leave of absence for Friday’s sitting.
Furthermore, the official stated, the member did not provide any established basis for his absence from the sitting that would have invoked the discretion of the Speaker.
“A Speaker’s discretion to grant leave is not an arbitrary one but is guided by the Constitution and practice. A person who holds office is permitted to be absent if he/she is sick, out of the country, or some emergency has arisen.
“It is not the practice of any Speaker to grant leave to a Member of Parliament because the Member simply does not feel to attend the sitting. As much as the Speaker may have been inclined to (grant leave), he is bound by the proper practice and the recognition that the House of Representatives is the highest deliberative assembly of the land with constitutional responsibilities,” the official stated.
Meanwhile, Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal said he planned to meet with Roberts to discuss the matter.
Also commenting on the issue, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday that his fight was with UWI not Wade Mark.
Except for his (Rowley’s) opinion that the use of the Parliament letterhead to write to the university was inappropriate, Rowley said his beef was with the University of the West Indies.
He said therefore it is more than likely the Opposition would be bringing a motion to the Parliament to discuss the falling standards at UWI.
Rowley said statements made by UWI personnel were very disturbing to him.
He cited statements made that the EMBA (Executive Management of Business Administration) did not mean much since it was the MBA that was the real degree, and statements suggesting that UWI had no standards.
He said he had three UWI degrees and spent most of his adult life at UWI and was very concerned about such comments.
—Ria Taitt
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