Parliament was full of action, as anticipated, this morning, Friday, February 17, even before the actual swearing-in of the Members of the House of Representatives.
For the first time in the known history of the Parliament, three persons were up for the position of House Speaker: Sir Gerald Watt K.C., nominated by Prime Minister Gaston Browne and seconded by Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin; attorney Sherri-Anne Bradshaw, moved by Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle and seconded by Anthony Smith Jr., MP for All Saints West; and former Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer, who was nominated by Asot Michael, MP for St. Peter and seconded by Barbuda MP Trevor Walker.
Accordingly, a ballot had to be taken in conformity with the Standing Orders of the Lower House.
At the end of the count, which was delayed because the Clerk to Parliament was not prepared for such a turn of events, Sir Gerald emerged the victor with a count of nine votes to eight for Bradshaw, as most of audience expected.
However, during the vote there were rousing cheers by supporters of each political party and the lone independent candidate, MP Michael.
Sir Gerald was later sworn in as the House Speaker for this parliamentary session. On taking the chair, he welcomed all the MP’s, old and new, and asked that they familiarize themselves with the Standing Orders, a few of which he detailed.
In the selection of the Deputy Speaker, PM Browne moved that the Member for St. Phillip’s North, Sir Robin Yearwood, be elected, which was seconded by the attorney general and remained uncontested.
This was followed by the taking of the Oath or affirmations by the Members of the Government bench: for St. John’s City West (PM Browne); St. John’s City South (attorney general); St. Mary’s North (Sir Molwyn Joseph); St. Paul (EP “Chet” Greene); St. John’s Rural North (Charles “Max” Fernandez); City East (Melford Nicholas); St. John’s Rural East (Maria Browne); and St. John’s Rural South (Daryll Matthew).
The were followed by Members of the Opposition bench: for All Saints East and St. Luke (Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle) followed by the MP for Barbuda (Trevor Walker); St. John’s Rural West (Richard Lewis,); All Saints West (Anthony Smith, Jr.); St. Phillip’s South (Sherfield Bowen); St. George Algernon Watts; and St. Mary’s South (Kelvin Simon), whose swearing-in was challenged and then dismissed by a court only on Tuesday.
The lone independent Member – who made history in the January 18 polls by becoming the first-ever person not aligned to a political party to be elected to the House – was St. Peter’s Asot Michael, whose oath concluded the swearing-in ceremony.