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Can sittings be canceled for unexplained ‘unforeseen circumstances’?

Can sittings be canceled for unexplained ‘unforeseen circumstances’?

Former Speaker of the House of Assembly (HOA) Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe said the recent postponement of the 8th sitting of the fourth Session of the House should not have happened unless there was a natural disaster or unforeseen event of a similar magnitude.
The House of Assembly was set to meet on November 1 but 30 minutes before that sitting, members of the media received a notice that it was cancelled “due to unforeseen circumstances”.

In a recent interview with 284 media, Moses-Scatliffe said the HOA’s Standing Orders (the rules that govern the House) prescribe that the House should convene once summons and notices have been issued to elected members, the press, and the public.

“Failing a disaster or something happening in a short period of time that actually prevents the sitting from occurring, then the sitting should happen. Once a summons is issued to members, once notices are sent out, the Order Paper and everything is sent out — when the day comes, you should be there,” Moses-Scatliffe explained.

She said the absence of a quorum (the minimum number of legislators required) is the only other valid reason for the postponement of a sitting. In such cases, Moses-Scatliffe said the government should have informed the public that they didn’t have the quorum to convene the sitting of the House of Assembly.

“If you don’t have a quorum then the Speaker can’t start the sitting. But at least the media in the House Of Assembly would notify the public that the sitting couldn’t take place because there wasn’t a quorum,” Moses-Scatliffe explained. “It’s highly unusual to just postpone a sitting.”

She added that members of the House of Assembly cannot just postpone a sitting for reasons they find valid because they should be guided by the rules that govern the House.

“The House of Assembly sitting is part of procedures and the rules are there. Even though you might think your reasons are viable, there’s a reason why the rules are actually there. If it were an informal meeting of the members that would be fine but once it’s a formal House of Assembly sitting, it is much more challenging to just do it (postpone) because that’s not the way it should be done. You should convene the sitting,” Moses-Scatliffe explained.

A notice from the government said the House of Assembly will convene on November 15. It is not clear whether a valid reason will be provided for the recent postponement at that time.

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