The Opposition’s bid to nominate attorney Nafeesa Mohammed as House Speaker failed yesterday and Government’s majority votes secured the election of incumbent Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George to the post.
But the PNM narrowly won out since PNM La Horquetta/Talparo MP Foster Cummings arrived late for the vote, reducing PNM’s 22 votes to 21. However the UNC’s 19 MPs were all present for the vote.
Government House Leader Camille Robinson-Regis proposed Annisette-George for the post.
Annisette-George was Speaker in the recently-concluded term. The nomination was seconded by PNM’s Shamfa Cudjoe.
However, UNC whip David Lee also proposed Mohammed, seconded by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Mohammed, a onetime PNM deputy leader, is an advocate for Muslim groups. She has been in the forefront of seeking the return of people now in the Middle East camps following the fall of the Islamic State terrorist group. Mohammed resigned from the PNM recently, criticising its leadership, and was campaigning for the UNC in elections.
Yesterday, the Clerk of the House read out Standing Orders who prescribed that when two people are nominated for the post, the person first proposed would be Speaker. MPs then voted on Annisette-George. On Thursday the Opposition rejected Annisette-George, accusing her of not being impartial in the last term.
But after yesterday’s 21-19 vote, all MPs, including UNC MPs, bowed to Annisette-George in the usual custom after taking the oath of office and returning to their seats.
Although the Opposition stated on Thursday that legal redress would be sought if Annisette-George did not withdraw from being nominated for the post, after yesterday’s vote, Persad-Bissessar said Annisette-George was appointed and the Opposition would continue to function as MPs.
PNM’s Esmond Forde was elected again as deputy Speaker.
However, the Opposition also objected on another matter: the reduction of speaking time in yesterday’s debate on the Public Health regulations.
Parliamentary speaking times were reduced in recent sittings due to COVID-19 protocols to ensure parliament matters are completed quickly.
Government recommended reducing speaking time to 30 minutes for the mover of a motion and 20 minutes for other speakers. Both sides voted on the matter with the PNM’s 22 votes against UNC’s 19 securing the time reduction. PNM’s Cummings was in the chamber then.