The Speaker of the House of Representatives has reminded Parliamentarians to present their vaccination cards to the Clerk of Parliament for their status to be recorded in the Hansard, the official record of the proceedings in both Houses.
However, an attorney-at-law and several pundits say Sir Gerald Watt is exceeding his authority.
On October 7, Watt wrote to Senate President Alincia Williams-Grant, reminding her of the Government’s mandatory vaccination policy.
In that missive, Watt said that, “effective immediately, no Member of the House of Representatives or the Senate who [is] unvaccinated against the [coronavirus] will be permitted to attend a sitting of the Lower House or the Senate.”
Accordingly, in order to ensure compliance with the mandate, he said, Members and Senators will be required to present a valid vaccination certificate upon entry to the Parliamentary building. Those who fail to comply with this directive would be denied entrance into the Chamber, he warned.
However, in his reminder of the mandate yesterday, October 19, Watt says he is confident that everyone would abide by the regulation.
Unofficial records show that most Parliamentarians have already been inoculated, he says; but the presentation of vaccination cards will confirm their status.
As law-makers, the Members and Senators must set an example, Watt states.
Meanwhile, attorney Leon Chaku Symister is challenging Sir Gerald, saying he does not have the authority to issue directives to Senator Williams-Grant. He notes that, officially, the President of the Upper House is higher in rank than the presiding officer of the Lower House.
Further, Symister challenges the right of an “unelected Speaker” to determine whether an elected Member of the House of Representatives can enter the Parliament, where he or she has been “sent by the people.”
Other pundits agree with Symister. They contend, further, that the Browne Administration cannot decide that certain residents will be exempted on religious grounds and then impose the mandate on elected members.
“Vaccination is not a constitutional requirement for entry to the House. And it cannot be imposed after the fact. Elected Members cannot be barred from the House just because the Speaker says so,” Symister tells REAL News.