House Speaker and Senate President lay down the rules for members of both Houses, promising to preside fairly and firmly

As members of both Houses of Parliament took the oath of allegiance during the official swearing-in ceremonies today, February 17, the presiding officers laid out the guidelines by which the parliamentarians are to conduct themselves.

All six of the United Progressive Party’s MP’s, along with the Barbuda representative and the independent member for St. Peter, received resounding applause from their supporters and invited guests – who also sounded their disgust with Prime Minister Gaston Browne by rounds of booing at strategic times.

Swearing-in of the MPs on the Government Bench took place first and followed the re-election of House Speaker Sir Gerald Watt and his deputy, Sir Robin Yearwood.

Sir Gerald told the Members of the Lower House that he expects them to familiarize themselves with the Standing Orders (Revised 2020) and to follow them closely.

Shortly after the General Election, the General Secretary of the UPP, Senator Shawn Nicholas, had applied for copies of the Standing Orders.  

Watt commended this move, saying it suggests the intention of the Opposition members to fully acquaint themselves, contribute to a high level of debate, and be guided by those orders over the next five years.

He pointed them to sections under the Rules of Debate and Rules of Order, which, he says, are very important for them to know.

Sir Gerald also noted the Standing Orders that he plans to firmly enforce this session, including Members not being allowed on their phones or other electronic devices as the debate is going on.

Sir Gerald also said the leeway that was afforded to the Opposition bench in the past will be curtailed, since the number has moved from two to seven, excluding MP Michael.

Meanwhile, senators took the oath of office in a separate ceremony at the Parliament in the afternoon hours on Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Nicholas, Johnathan Joseph, Alex Browne, and David Massiah, the general secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Worker’s Union, a labor organization affiliated with the UPP, were sworn in to the opposition benches.

Samantha Marshall, leader of government business in the Upper House, Mary-Clare Hurst, Shenella Govia, Osbert Frederick, Colin O’Neal Browne, Knacyntar Nedd-Charles, Phillip Shoul, Caleb Gardiner, Clement Antonio, and Rawdon Turner also took the oath as Government senators.

The Governor-General’s nominee, Kiz Johnson, was also sworn in, as was returning Barbuda senator Fabian Jones.

Alincia Williams-Grant continues as Senate president, while Senator Frederick was nominated deputy president.

Grant, in her welcoming remarks to the senators, warned that the upcoming session will not be one for slacking, since they have been chosen to do the people’s work.

She, too, admonished the new senators to familiarize themselves with the Standing Orders.