Resigned from UNC:
PM: It’s my duty
...initiates proceedings to have House Speaker declare St Joseph seat vacant
Ria Taitt Political Editor
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has said she considers it her “constitutional duty” to initiate the process aimed at invoking Section 49 of the Constitution and empowering the Speaker to declare vacant the St Joseph seat currently held by Herbert Volney.
Persad-Bissessar, in her capacity as political leader of the United National Congress (UNC), has written to Wade Mark indicating Volney has resigned as a member of the UNC, and called upon him to make a declaration with respect to Volney’s status in the House of Representatives.
The letter, dated August 26, pointed out that Section 49 (A) of the Constitution clearly sets out the steps that must be taken by the Speaker of the House of Representatives in circumstances where a member has resigned from or has been expelled by his party.
In such a situation, the Constitution requires the leader of the party on whose ticket the member was elected to inform the Speaker in writing of the circumstances; and the Speaker, after he is so informed, shall at the next sitting of the House make a declaration that the member has resigned. The member, shall vacate his seat or he may legally challenge the claim that he has resigned or has been expelled.
In her letter to Mark, Persad-Bissessar stated: “Section 49A of the Constitution clearly sets out the steps that must be taken by the Speaker of the House of Representatives in these circumstances. Having brought to your attention the fact that Mr Volney is no longer a member of the UNC, I call upon your good self at the next sitting of the House of Representatives to perform your constitutional duty by declaring that Mr Volney has resigned from the UNC.
“I await your declaration at the next sitting of the House of Representatives, in accordance with Section 49A of the Constitution that Mr Herbert Volney has resigned from the UNC.”
The Prime Minister’s letter was copied to Nela Khan, Deputy Speaker.
Mark is in South Africa attending a Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference and is due back sometime tomorrow. Sources said yesterday that while he is leaving Johannesburg early to be back in Trinidad in time for the presentation of the budget next Monday, he is not likely to be back in time to preside over tomorrow’s sitting. At the time he left the country, Mark would not have known about that sitting (tomorrow), sources explained.
Legal sources said yesterday that since the Constitution specifically refers to the Speaker being the one to make any declaration of a vacancy, it might not be advisable for the Deputy Speaker, who is scheduled to be presiding over tomorrow’s sitting, to initiate any action based on the Prime Minister’s request. The legal experts suggested that the matter be dealt with by Mark at Monday’s sitting. They noted that this was especially so in the light of the fact that Volney has publicly declared his intention to fight to keep his St Joseph seat and to challenge in the courts any declaration of a vacancy.
The timing of the Prime Minister’s move has coincided with Volney’s announcement that he has applied to join the Independent Liberal Party which is led by Chaguanas West MP and former UNC chairman, Jack Warner.
The Prime Minister attached to her letter to Mark a copy of Volney’s letter of resignation from the UNC and the EBC Report indicating Volney was elected to the St Joseph constituency as a UNC candidate.
Also attached was a copy of Page 328 of the Report of the Elections and Boundaries Commission on the Parliamentary Elections held on May 24, 2010 (“the EBC Report”) and a copy of the Gazette documenting that Persad-Bissessar was appointed Prime Minister on May 26, 2010, by the President in the exercise of the power vested in him by Section 76(1) (a) of the Constitution.
Persad-Bissessar also indicated in the letter that she was elected Political Leader of the UNC on January 24, 2010 and was elected to the House of Representatives as the Member of Parliament for Siparia on May 20, 2010. The letter also attached a copy of Page 328 of the Report of the Elections and Boundaries Commission on the Parliamentary Elections held on May 24, 2010 (“the EBC Report”).
The letter also stated that she was appointed Prime Minister on May 26, 2010, by the President in the exercise of the power vested in him by Section 76(1) (a) of the Constitution, and a copy of the Gazette indicating as much.
The letter also had attached the EBC Report indicating that Volney was elected to the St Joseph constituency as a UNC candidate
The letter stated: “It should be noted that Section 76 (1) (a) of the Constitution expressly provides that where there is occasion for the appointment of a Prime Minister, the President shall appoint as Prime Minister “a member of the House of Representatives who is the Leader of that House of the party which commands the support of the majority of members of that House...” and same is distinct from Section 76(1) (b) which latter expressly provides, inter alia, for the appointment of a Prime Minister in circumstances where the party does not have an “undisputed leader”.
“To date, I remain the Political Leader of the UNC, the Member of Parliament for Siparia and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago... Mr Herbert Volney, as a UNC candidate in the Parliamentary Elections held on May 24, 2010, was elected to the House of Representatives as the Member of Parliament for St Joseph)... By letter dated July 30, 2013, Mr Volney resigned from the UNC with immediate effect... In his said (resignation) letter, Mr Volney clearly recognised and accepted that I am the Leader of the UNC of which he was a member prior to July 30, 2013.”
“As the Political Leader of the UNC, I consider it to be my constitutional duty under Section 49A of the Constitution to inform your good self that by virtue of his resignation, Mr Volney is no longer a member of the UNC, the party for which he was a candidate when he was elected as the Member of Parliament for St Joseph in the May 24, 2010, parliamentary elections,” Persad-Bissessar stated.