September 21, 2023

The Editor Speaks: Why I dislike abstaining

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Colin WilsonwebIt was with some irritation on my part with our two independent MLAs, East End’s Arden McLean and North Side’s Ezzard Miller, when they both abstained on the government motion to introduce ‘one man, one vote’ (OMOV)in single member constituencies before the 2017 election on Wednesday 10th September in the Legislative Assembly.

Good Heavens! These two men have been at the front of the campaign for OMOV even during the Bush UDP government.

When it looked like the present Progressives’ government led by Premier Alden McLaughlin had done a 180 degree turn on bringing in the legislation for OMOV and voted against the Miller/McLean Private Members bill to introduce it there was much name calling, disbelief, and fury from the two independents.

It looked as if we were not going to get the OMOV legislation in time for the 2017 election and I warned of dire consequences for McLaughlin and his party.

Then, McLaughlin, who looked as if he was facing a revolt from the majority of his members and ‘friendly’ backbenchers if he didn’t go along with what he and his party had campaigned for in the general election – the OMOV – announced he was bringing a motion in the LA in the present sitting for OMOV after all.

And did that put a smile on the faces of Miller and McLean. No.

They were and are suspicious.

They wanted a timeline or the specific number of seats specified in the motion – none of which had been campaigned for.

Even when McLaughlin pointed out the constitution already provided for the 18 seats that currently make up the LA and therefore there was no need to specify the number Miller and McLean were not satisfied. McLaughlin even said the government had no plans to increase the number of constituencies and had not directed anything different in his OMOV motion, they still growled and filled with discontent.

So when it came to the vote they both abstained. They might just have well not shown up as was the want of UDP member Bernie Bush, who had gone on record as saying he was for it but disappeared from the chamber when the vote was taken.

If you don’t like the motion vote against it.

In this day and age you hardly ever get a perfect 100% of what you want. Only a few months ago it looked like you would get nothing.

So instead of the whole country congratulating the Miller and McLean duo for their perseverance in pushing the OMOV legislation we shake our heads in wonderment.

Because, “to abstain from voting” means “not to vote at all.” (Robert’s Rules, 11th ed., p 45.)

There is no compulsion to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as sometimes there are valid reasons when a member cannot. These are normally:

“Whenever a director believes he/she has a conflict of interest, the director should abstain from voting on the issue and make sure the abstention is noted in the minutes. (Robert’s Rules, 11th ed., p 407.) The other reason a director might abstain is that he/she believes there was insufficient information for making a decision. Otherwise, directors should cast votes on all issues put before them. Failure to do so could be deemed a breach of their fiduciary duties.”

For director in this case substitute MLA.

Watching both of them abstain when the OMOV vote was called in the LA it reminded me of a movie:

“Grumpy Old Men”.

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