Opposition presses for private HOA proceedings to become public
Newly appointed Opposition Leader Ronnie Skelton has promised to help in bringing more transparency to the dealings of the House of Assembly (HOA) once sittings resume.
While HOA sittings have been live-streamed, televised and broadcast on radio in the past, its committee stage and other similar meetings are usually held in private and kept away from the prying eyes and ears of the public. The ‘committee stage’ is when legislators collectively meet and examine a bill clause by clause.
Skelton suggested that, among other things, meetings held for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which he now chairs, as well as meetings held in the committee stage of HOA proceedings should now be broadcast to the public as they are being conducted.
“I will try to make the [PAC] proceedings public,” Skelton stated. “I will push to have a real office of the Leader of the Opposition where people can actually understand that we’re building institutions, where we will be on the road to some internal self governance.”
Put up or shut up
Skelton’s position was supported by Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP) Marlon Penn, who promised to push for full transparency even as he reminded persons that Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley previously expressed support for making sessions of the committee stage public.
“One of the things that we discussed very clearly on the campaign trail was the issue – particularly when it comes to legislation – of making the committee stage of the House public,” Penn stated.
“The Premier agreed with this and he needs to put up or shut up,” Penn added. “We have to make sure that we are fully transparent with the process so the public can see the machinations, in terms of how things happen, the changes that we’re making and the decisions that we are making that are going to impact their lives. Not [only knowing] when it comes out in the gazette.”
In the meantime, Third District Representative Julian Fraser said the HOA’s committees need to be more functional than they have been in the past. Fraser also expressed support for the move by Penn and Skelton to have PAC meetings made public.
“We have to, for the first time, attempt to prevent the House of Assembly from being a rubber stamp for the executive,” Fraser said. “[Committees] have been established but not functional and in order to serve the public in the way it is intended by the Westminster system our committees have to work.”