The Budget Debate got underway in the Lower House of Parliament this morning, March 9, with Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle opening on a controversial note.
Pringle informed the House Speaker, Sir Gerald Watt, that the Opposition Bench was aware that his deputy, Sir Robin Yearwood, had failed to affix his signature after having taken the oath of allegiance on February 17.
Pringle further questioned whether – having signed after the ceremony, and outside the precincts of Parliament – Sir Robin could be considered to have been properly sworn in.
Before Sir Gerald could answer, however, Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin rose to address Pringle’s query, claiming that Yearwood had signed the record before being sworn is as the Deputy and had no need to do so a second time.
Speaking for the Opposition Bench, Pringle disputed Benjamin’s statement, countering that there had been no initial signing as a Member of the House of Representatives.
The matter becoming contentious, the Opposition Leader and Sir Gerald agreed that the situation would be investigated and the Speaker would later inform the House.
On the weekend following the swearing-in ceremony, a clip of the incident – captured by ABS-Television – went into wide circulation. It showed Yearwood taking the oath, removing his pen from his pocket, and then walking away without affixing his signature.
After it became a public discussion, it was alleged that the Clerk to Parliament and a police officer had been dispatched to Yearwood’s home – with the register – to have the Deputy Speaker sign.