St Joseph MP Herbert Volney
I WILL SUE GOVT
Volney threatens court action if House Speaker declares his St Joseph seat vacant
Anna Ramdass email@example.com
Former judge Herbert Volney said yesterday he was prepared to face the courts and launch a legal battle to keep his St Joseph seat in the Parliament.
Volney was elected as the St Joseph Member of Parliament on a United National Congress (UNC) ticket in the general election of May 2010.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar fired him as the Justice Minister last year following the Section 34 debacle.
On July 30, 2013, Volney resigned as a UNC member and is now aligned with Jack Warner’s Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
Last week, Persad-Bissessar disclosed that she wrote to House Speaker Wade Mark querying whether the St Joseph seat should be declared vacant since Volney has resigned from the UNC.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday the provisions of the Constitution were clear—that once a member resigns or is expelled from a party on whose ticket he was elected, the Speaker must declare that member’s seat vacant.
The MP, he said, has 14 days to launch a legal challenge and if that is done, the vacancy will not take effect until the legal proceedings are completed.
Speaking to the Express by phone, Volney said he has “plenty court clothes” and was ready to face the courts all the way up to the Privy Council to prevent being kicked out of Parliament.
Volney noted that Section 49 of the Constitution states that a member has 14 days to initiate legal action and such an action prevents the unseating of a Member of Parliament until the proceedings are completed.
The MP said on Friday when the Parliament meets, the Speaker is expected to make the declaration with respect to the St Joseph seat and, “I propose to file an action contesting the Speaker’s action.”
According to the Constitution, if the MP takes legal action, he shall cease to perform his duties as a member of the House and shall only resume these if and when the legal proceedings are in his favour.
Volney said he intends to also challenge this as the Constitution does not define what the functions of a sitting Member of Parliament are.
“I am entitled to speak and vote so if I am not unseated then there is no constriction,” said Volney.
Volney was in full support of Warner’s move to resign the Chaguanas West seat and seek a fresh mandate from the people through a by-election.
Asked why he does not do the same for his own St Joseph seat, Volney responded, “Mr Warner’s seeking re-validation was because of the basis on which he was dismissed from Cabinet and unanswered allegations against him. There isn’t a single allegation against me...I have no re-validation to seek.”
Volney said he was no fool to represent himself in the courts and he already has an attorney in mind to handle the case.
He lambasted Ramlogan, saying the actions of the AG will be a huge expense to the State as the AG “has a lot of friends to give work to”.
Asked whether he consulted his constituents on launching a legal challenge to keep the St Joseph seat, Volney said-contrary to the Express report of around 40 people showing up—there was a large turnout in Mt D’Or and “the people want to stay and fight the AG”.
Questioned on his drawing swords against the AG, Volney said, “I can’t fight the Prime Minister, I have no beef with her. The Prime Minister asks for advice and I understand that advice comes from the AG. The courts will decide, not the AG.”
Asked whether he has intentions to contest the 2015 general election on an ILP ticket, Volney said he was done with politics.
“I do not propose to have any leading role in the ILP. I do not propose to seek any re-election at the polls. I want to retire from this ugly game of politics,” said Volney.
Asked why then was he seeking to wage a legal battle if he wants out of politics, Volney said he took an oath to serve the people and he intends to serve his full five-year term as the representative of the people of St Joseph.
“I came out of my job (as a judge) to reform the criminal justice system, but the Prime Minister, or I should say the AG, stopped me in my tracks. So now I will continue to serve my constituents even if they try to silence me in the Parliament, I will continue to be their MP until there is a general election,” said Volney.
Ramlogan said should Volney initiate a legal battle, the Constitution deliberately reduces his role in the House because he would be in a “twilight zone” where he cannot participate in House proceedings.
“If he resigns without launching a legal challenge then the seat becomes vacant and a by-election becomes necessary,” he said.
Ramlogan stressed that the Prime Minister sought independent legal advice on the matter and he was asked to give advice thereafter.
“The advice I gave had nothing to do with the personalities involved but rather what the law is. Whilst it is easy to pontificate and speculate, I would rather leave the legal issues to be determined by the court as I’m comfortable and confident about the advice given,” said Ramlogan.
He said the absence of standing orders does not nullify the constitutional duty to declare a member’s seat vacant in circumstances where he has resigned from his party upon whose strength he was elected.
Questioned whether he should be involved in any way with respect to this issue as Volney had publicly called for his (Ramlogan’s) removal following the Section 34 issue, Ramlogan said, “This has precious little to do with me. The duties imposed on the Speaker were triggered not by any action on the Government’s part but rather the letter Mr Volney wrote to the Speaker to indicate he had resigned from the UNC.”