KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock is considering legal action against House Speaker Hendrick Alexander for statement Alexander reportedly made about Leacock’s suitability for office.
Leacock said at a New Democratic Party (NDP) press conference on Wednesday that Alexander would in time hear from his Central Kingstown constituents who feel aggrieved by the Speaker’s comments.
Leacock also announced that he has informed his lawyer of statements Searchlight newspaper, in its March 30 edition, attributed to Alexander.
The newspaper quoted Alexander as saying Leacock is “simply a rude and out of place man who is not fit to be a Parliamentarian to represent people anywhere in this country.”
It further quoted Alexander as saying “… Sometimes I wonder if he does not suffer from some sort of complex or the other.
“He just simply believes that he can flaunt the rules of the House any and all times and must be allowed to do that, but while I remain Speaker of the House of Assembly, he will never, ever be able to do it and get away with it. I’ll always challenge him.”
The newspaper also quoted Leacock as saying the Speaker is “manifestly incompetent, undemocratic in his practice and manipulated by the ruling regime in the conduct of the House”.
He further said the speaker continues to be “disrespectful, contemptuous and non-democratic”.
But Leacock said at the press briefing that Vincentians determined that opposition legislators be elected on their behalf.
“And it is not for the Speaker of the House to second guess the constituents of this blessed land of ours,” he said.
“And I know, in a matter of time, the Speaker will hear from those people in Central Kingstown who feel aggrieved by his uncontrolled outburst. I will say this though, we must maintain the resolved in the Parliament to see that the democracy of this country is protected because the Parliament is critical in that regard.
“And the occasions on which we are [not] allowed to speak properly without his interference is increasing to the point where Parliamentary exercise become rather dysfunctional and so I support whole heartedly the call by the Leader of the Opposition for the Speaker to step down from that position.
“And I will say this to him, and I say this only: nothing that I have said about him — and I do not speak disparagingly of him — … comes near the assessment that has been given of his by the leader of government business in the House [,Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves].
“And he doesn’t have to go very far to check what those records are and what opinions are held of him by the honourable Prime Minister himself. We will continue in the New Democratic Party to do the people’s business and to do it assiduously,” Leacock said.
The NDP, at its press conference, said it had written to Alexander asking him to demit office even as Leacock had had talks with his lawyer.
“I have in fact drawn the matter to my own attorney’s attention and I reserve my rights,” Leacock said at the press conference.
“… It is undesirable that you have a House that determines itself to be honourable and have members being caught up in court matters when common-sense and decency tells one what needs to be done,” he further said.
Leacock resists temptation
Leacock, who often clashes in Parliament with Alexander, said he “also reserved the privilege to respond to the Speaker in kind and he will not look the better for it if I was to make a comparison.
“But I have resisted that temptation,” he said.
“It is as tempting as it is provocative for me to respond to the Speaker’s diatribe, and, I might say, slander. But these are times when we in the New Democratic Party, against great odds, have to take the moral highroad and avoid being dragged through the mud or being diverted from the issues of the day,” he told reporters.
“So, while I join in the condemnation [of the actions of the Speaker], I will not engage the Speaker publicly in his continuous disrespect for his own office and the contempt he continues to throw at us, members of the parliament,” Leacock said.