Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Anil resigns; letter for Mark today



Mark Fraser

The configuration of the House of Representatives would change today when House Speaker Wade Mark reads into the Hansard records the resignation letter which he is expected to receive, notifying him and the Parliament of the resignation of Anil Roberts as Member of Parliament for the D’Abadie/O’Meara constituency.

Roberts has indicated his resignation letter would be delivered to Mark by 9 a.m.

Roberts resigned last Thursday as sport minister after an ongoing investigation into the LifeSport programme which was his brainchild and fell under his portfolio. He said then in his letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that it was also his desire to resign as MP for the D’Abadie/O’Meara constituency.

It is an unprecedented move in the last session of a Parliament, which would leave the electors of the constituency unrepresented for approximately one year.

The House of Representatives meets today at 1. 30 p.m. at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain when it commences its final session. It would be the first sitting of the Fifth Session of the Tenth Parliament.

Assuming the letter is delivered, it would mean that the numbers of the People’s Partnership in the House of Representatives is down to 26 MPs, just the exact number of votes required to pass legislation needing a three-fifths majority.

When this Parliament first met on June 18, 2010, the newly elected Government had 29 seats, a comfortable majority in the 41-seat House of Representatives. While there was a defection from the Partnership in the Senate, in the person of MSJ’s David Abdulah, this did not impair the Government’s majority in the Lower House.

However the People’s Partnership had its first reversal in July 2013 with the resignation from the Parliament and then the party of its former chairman, Jack Warner. Warner, who had been a minister, resigned from the Government and the Parliament following adverse allegations in April 2013 in the FIFA Ethics Committee Report, headed by Sir David Simmons. He accepted a nomination to contest the seat once again on a UNC ticket. But following his rejection by the UNC Screening Committee, Warner formed the ILP and successfully challenged the UNC and PNM in Chaguanas West, achieving a historic victory by defeating the UNC for the first time in one of its heartland constituencies.

This brought People’s Partnership numbers down to 28 seats.

Months later in November 2013, the Government suffered another reversal. Herbert Volney, who lost his ministerial portfolio as a result of the Section 34 fiasco, subsequently resigned from the UNC, announcing this intention to join the ILP.

Faced with the prospect of a growing ILP presence, the Prime Minister and leader of the UNC wrote to Speaker Mark, pointing out that Volney and resigned from the party on whose ticket he entered the Parliament.

The Prime Minister’s letter triggered the provisions of the Crossing of the Floor Act. The Act provides for the Speaker required to declare vacant the seat of any MP who resigns from or is expelled from his seat. It was a historic first. The PNM won the St Joseph by-election, increasing its numbers from 12 to 13 MPs in the House of Representatives, while reducing the Government numbers from 28 to 27 Mps.

With Anil Robert’s intended departure the Government will end up with 26 seats. There will be no by-election because the seat would become vacant, more than four years after the commencement of this parliamentary term- which began on June 18, 2010. Because the vacancy constitutionally falls in the fifth year of the parliamentary term, this precludes the holding of a by-election and consequently the D’Abadie/O’Meara seat would remain vacant. The electors of D’Abadie/O’Meara would be unrepresented in the Parliament.

Government’s 26-seat majority offers its no wiggle room. The travelling of MPs would be conditioned by the Government programme requiring special majority legislation. In matters requiring the minimiu. three-fifth majority all Government members would have to be present in the chamber when the votes are taken.

Any further losses from the Government bench would remove its ability to pass legislation unilaterally that affects constitutional rights and freedoms. Many of the bills to deal with crime- whether white collar crime or otherwise fall into this category. Roberts’s action provoked questions yesterday as to whether many offer to serve as a Member of Parliament in order to become a minister and and without the ministerial portfolio there is no interest in representing constituents.

Unlike Jack Warner, who returned to Chaguanas West, minus his ministerial title and unlike Volney who sought to continue to work as a MP, following his dismissal from the Cabinet, Roberts has announced his intention to totally abandon all his public posts, and especially at a time when no by-election can be held for his vacated parliamentary seat.