Irate Douglas accuses Speaker and PM of collusion in rush passage of bill

Leader of the Opposition, the Right Hon Dr Denzil Douglas blasted Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Michael Perkins and Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris for colluding in shutting out the parliamentary opposition on Wednesday from making a contribution on the Drugs (Amendment) Bill. 2019 by starting the house earlier than promised.

Parliamentarians were told Wednesday morning that debate would resume at 1.30 pm Wednesday afternoon, but the House resumed earlier and Speaker allowed Dr Harris, the mover of the legislation, although several members of the government benches had not made presentations 

“I want to make it absolutely clear to the general public that the government including the speaker were very dishonest in allowing the parliament start before 1.30 this afternoon when this morning when parliamentarians were present they told us that the parliament was adjourned until 1.30 this afternoon. I believe it was deliberate, dishonest, very deceptive on the part of the mover of the bill, the prime minister Dr Harris and his colleagues and the Speaker in particular to have started the continuation of the debate as we were told yesterday and this morning at 1.30 when in fact they did not have any intention of allowing members of the opposition to speak,” Dr Douglas said on Freedom 102.5 FM Issues programme Wednesday afternoon.

Dr Douglas said the bill does not speak to the issues that continue to confront the people with regard to the use of marijuana in St Kitts and Nevis.

“We believe that the Team Unity Government has no intention really of changing the status quo following the ruling of High Court Judge Eddy Ventose,” said Dr Douglas who referred to previous remarks by Dr Harris on his personal position on the use of marijuana as the Marijuana Commission was doing its work.

He said that what transpired in the national assembly on Tuesday and Wednesday “is a clear indication that the prime minister intends to maintain the status quo of continuing to arrest persons who are using marijuana.”

“The decriminalisation that they speak about is a joke. Within this very piece of legislation debated Tuesday and Wednesday, it states very clearly the penalties that will be meted out for persons who violate by being in possession of more than 15 grams and are caught smoking in certain areas will be immediately fined. If you cannot pay that fine you will be asked to do some form of community work. If you cannot pay the fine or refuse to pay, you will be sent to prison. No matter how long is the prison sentence, it is still a prison sentence,” said Dr Douglas, pointing out that the society will continue to condemn those persons by the general public as being unfit for society and will continue to have a criminal record.

“Nothing would have changed. What we have seen by Dr Harris and his government is a very feeble attempt to respond to a court order that was given from the High Court. If there was no order from the court, all of the talk and the hype that this Team Unity government would have created about changing its attitude towards marijuana would have come to nought, but because of the judgement as a result of the civil suit brought against the government by Ras Sankofa in defence of his human rights, the government went into parliament yesterday and made a very feeble attempt to respond to the court order,” said Dr Douglas.