Dr Francis Severin says autocratic leaders expect unconditional & total loyalty from key officials like “House Speakers”
Photo Credit: Dominica News Online
Dr. Francis Severin, Director of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus Sites, is of the view that Parliament is an agency of the country’s democracy, which belongs to the people, and to no one else.
He made that statement while delivering a feature presentation at the 11th Annual Dame Eugenia Charles Memorial Lecture, which was held at the Fort Young Hotel yesterday Thursday night. Dr. Severin spoke on the topic: “Dem belly full, but we hungry: Insights into autocratic rule.”
According to Severin, it is backward for anyone, and especially the Speaker of the House of Assembly, to frustrate elected members. He added, “The Parliament is a tangible instrumentality or agency of our democracy. It belongs to the people and no one else. Therefore, it is obstructionist and backward for any one person, especially the Speaker, to frustrate elected members of the house”.
He further stated, “What supposedly represents Parliament in many of our Caribbean countries is quite disappointing, to say the least”. He expressed the view that the House Speaker should be a referee, rather than a patriarch or matriarch. Dr. Severin argues that it is quite common in the Caribbean, for members of Parliament who do not form the majority party, to be treated as though they do not represent significant sections of the population as well.
He continued by saying, “Autocratic rulers and the MP’s tend to take advantage of their parliamentary majority to bully members of the opposition, who, if they lack the requisite debating skills and experience, can find themselves perpetually assaulted by a preponderance of government MP’s, who themselves may lack the debating skills as well as elegance, decorum etc..”.
Dr. Severin added, “This situation is often exacerbated when there is a speaker who does not understand his or her role, and or sees his or her role as ‘chief bully’ or ‘bully in charge’ on behalf of the Prime Minister, whose favour the speaker enjoys”.
He noted this is the tragic reality in countries ruled by autocrats, who want no opposition, and who expect “total and unconditional” loyalty from those in key positions, such as “Speaker of the House of Assembly.”
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