PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday August 4, 2014, CMC – A new session of the Trinidad and Tobago parliament begins here on Monday with the Speaker Wade Mark expected to announce the resignation of former sports minister Anil Roberts as a parliamentarian.
Roberts, who submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar last weekend in the wake of a damning audit of the controversial multi-million dollar LifeSport programme, is expected to hand in his resignation ahead of the scheduled meeting of the Parliament scheduled for 1.30 pm (local time).
Roberts had consistently denied having done any wrongdoing but said he was resigning with “a heavy heart” and was stepping down also as the Member of Parliament for D’Abadie/ O’meara “with immediate effect, based on the inexplicable public furore that continued unabated based on misinformation in the public domain”.
Roberts, becomes the 14th member of the coalition Partnership government to be booted out of the Cabinet either through resignations, dismissals or cabinet re-shuffles. But his resignation will not trigger a bye-election as the Constitution does not make provisions for such in the final year of the term of a government.
However, the highlight of the new parliamentary session will be the adoption of new Standing Orders that will drastically change the way in which business is conducted in the legislative chamber.
As a result of the new change, all statements by Ministers would now have to be submitted to the Speaker in advance of their delivery in Parliament. These statements are also limited to 10 minutes and must be on government policy.
In addition, there will now be a 30 minute prime ministerial question time on the second sitting of every month where the head of government can be asked questions on current matters of national importance or on the general performance of the Government by any member of the Opposition.
The new Standing Orders make provisions for “urgent questions” requiring to just one hour notice as opposed to the 28-day notice period which previously applied to all ministerial questions.
The new rules also amend the length of speeches to be delivered by legislators. Previously all speakers had a total of 75 minutes, but the new time limit is 30 minutes, with an extension of 15 minutes.