Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet yesterday took to the streets with fellow supporters to call out government for what he alleges is a violation of the constitution, just before taking his seat in parliament.
Chastanet, his wife and former cabinet colleagues walked from the Leader of the Opposition’s Office at Hewanorra House in Sans Souci to parliament calling for the removal of House Speaker Claudius Francis.
Chastanet, who was recently suspended from parliament after he refused to withdraw certain statements, said he had no choice but to take the matter to court.
According to him, “I’m very grateful that I was able to win the court case and government has agreed to revoke that suspension. There will be a motion put (in) the House for that suspension to be revoked but this is happening too frequently, this government is doing this with the greatest amount of ease since they’ve come into office.”
Chastanet claimed that on many occasions, government attempted to suppress civil liberties by operating in contravention of the constitution.
“I’ve decided to walk from my office at Vigie Complex to parliament; I’ve called it the Walk for Democracy. Our constitution is what protects all of us. This is not a political walk… this is about preservation and empowerment of our own constitution,” Chastanet told reporters.
More importantly, Chastanet stated, “the only way the Constitution gets strength is through the people and anytime any government or any individual tries to take away those rights from us, (we) have to stand up and say enough is enough and that is what today is about.”
Tourism Minister Ernest Hilaire told reporters that Chastanet took parliament to court saying the Standing Orders were unconstitutional and asked the court to let him return until it has decided on the matter.
According to the minister, government said there was no need for that.
“Let the court decide… in the meantime we’ll let him come back, we don’t need to put an injunction or even hear that case. The court will decide whether or not parliament is unconstitutional. I cannot imagine how parliament can be unconstitutional but he’s going to court to decide,” Hilaire said.
Hilaire also spoke to reporters about Chastanet’s Walk for Democracy, noting that under the last government, there were barricades preventing supporters from coming within 100 metres of parliament. However, under this new government, he stated, the situation is different.
Said Hilaire, “The people are upset for whatever reason, let them come and demonstrate, we’re not going to stop it. I mean just think about it, this is supposed to be a march for democracy and you are outside in parliament yard expressing your views… there cannot be a bigger expression of democracy than this,” Hilaire said, adding “I think it is right that political parties are allowed to voice their sentiments.”
“We’ll have some fun in parliament today. I think we need to make it very clear to the Leader of the Opposition that we don’t want him out of parliament; he needs to answer about the vaccines, he needs to answer about the WASCO scandal, he needs to answer about St Jude (and) Hewannorra, he needs to answer about Cabot lands (and) DSH, he has a lot to answer. We don’t want him out of parliament but we need to say to him… there is a certain decorum and dignity that must be brought to parliament,” he added.