by Shawn Cumberbatch
A war of words between Government and Opposition members might be headed to Parliament’s Committee of Privileges for resolution.
Minister of Industry, International Business Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, locked horns with Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley during a contentious sitting of the Public Accounts Committee today, criticising Mottley’s overall chairmanship of the proceedings as “very biased” and calling some of her comments “nasty, cheap partisan politics”.
But after her colleague, St. James Central MP Kerrie Symmonds told Mottley Inniss’ “treatment of you” was “the type of thing that I suspect will begin to encroach on the privileges of honourable members”, the PAC Chairman hinted that the issue might be taken further.
The clash ensued as today’s sitting was being adjourned and Mottley was apologising to the public servants who were summoned to give evidence but did not because PAC members spent the entire two and a half hour meeting dealing with the procedural issues.
Inniss and other Government members, including Cabinet colleagues Richard Sealy and Senator Maxine McClean, objected to aspects of the Opposition’s Leader comments to the civil servants, saying she was giving them the impression that Government was trying to frustrate the PAC’s work.
“Madame chair you may wish to recommend that I no longer serve on this committee, but I cannot help but express the view that your chairmanship of this committee leaves a lot to be desired. It is extremely partisan, very biased, your comments just now as chairman were steeped in nasty, cheap partisan politics, it does not address the fundamental issue,” Inniss said.
“You are simply seeking to give the impression, or to make the statement, that the Government side is responsible for delaying and frustrating the work of the committee. That is totally regrettable.
“For six years the Leader of the Opposition on your side, all four of you all, had the opportunity to bring these issues and resolve them. You hardly met, you hardly discussed any matters of substance, now you are on a cheap witch hunt. Let me tell you, this work of this committee is gonna go way back to prior to 2008 because I realised that under your chairmanship you are hell bent on trying to embarrass and frustrate the work of the Government.” Inniss also told Mottley she could not “determine if Government can afford to hire a lawyer or hire any advisors to give advice on any matters whatsoever”.
“It may not cost as much as to rent a jet ski or go in a cane ground, but I wish to make it clear that you are in no position to determine what the Government can afford or cannot afford. I am very disturbed by your style of chairmanship, it is extremely bias towards the Opposition side. There is no level of impartiality whatsoever on your part. If there are no regulations then there cannot be any effective work of the PAC, it is as simple as that and I wish to make it clear to the media and to the country that the Government has nothing to hide,” the St. James South MP added.
Mottley responded that “Mr. Inniss is entitled to say anything he wants under the sun if he feels that that is a reflection of how he may want to conduct himself”. “This committee will deal with those matters that will advance the work of this committee and if necessary will also take actions in relation to the Committee of Privileges … if that time may come,” she said.
“I understand that people may not feel as level headed or … the equilibrium may not be there today for whatever reason and we will give them a very wide berth.
“I will appreciate that clearly … this committee has obviously caused deep consternation deep in the bowels of the Government such that the kind of behavior that is exhibited here today will cause me to reflect truly.
“What is it that is so different this week from last week and the week before in relation to the conduct of the affairs of this committee that would cause the committee to be this way?” she asked.
Mottley also said that while Inniss was expressing his opinion “I put him on notice”.
“His conduct and words have to reflect the standing on this committee as a sub committee of this chamber, and I will not say more than that today because I would like to believe that as a senior member of Parliament and a senior minister of the Government that he is well aware of the manner in which he ought to conduct himself even with his unfortunate asides that relate to the beach of law,” she said. email@example.com