The battle surrounding the St Joseph constituency intensified yesterday as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar accused Herbert Volney of being deceitful by not facing a by-election poll for the constituency.
The Prime Minister minced no words in criticising Volney, saying he was behaving like a chameleon and changing party colours to his interest.
She disclosed that the United National Congress (UNC) will continue to serve the people of St Joseph and she has mandated Government Senator Ganga Singh to be the “caretaker” for the constituency.
The Prime Minister was responding to questions from the media after distributing laptops to students at St James Secondary School yesterday.
On Monday, House Speaker Wade Mark declared that Volney, the St Joseph MP, was a UNC candidate and, having resigned from the party, was required under Section 49 (A) of the Constitution to cease to perform his functions as a member of the House with immediate effect.
On July 30, one day after the UNC’s defeat in the Chaguanas West by-election, Volney resigned from the party and has been critical of the Prime Minister and members of her Government, in particular Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
Mark read the Crossing of the Floor provisions of the Constitution which require the Speaker to declare a seat vacant once a member has resigned from the party on whose ticket he fought and the leader of that party has so informed the Speaker.
The holding of a by-election should also follow, but Volney said he plans to legally challenge the Speaker’s ruling. He has 14 days to do so.
This move will prevent a by-election from being held until the matter is resolved legally.
Volney was fired as the Minister of Justice in September last year following the Section 34 fiasco.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister said Volney should let the people decide whether they want him or not.
“I believe you know it is a kind of a oxymoron, I like that word, to say he was representing the people, well go back and face the people, go back to the election, you were elected on a ticket by the people and if it is the people no longer want a UNC representative go back out there and let them choose whichever representative they want. I have no fear of the people. So I think it’s an oxymoron on one hand to say you are representing the people, but be afraid to face the electorate to determine if it is you they want or if it is the party ticket they voted for,” said Persad-Bissessar.
“I am of the respectful view that it is deceptive to go up on one party ticket and then become a totally different, like a chameleon changing your colours, we call it a ‘24 hours’ I think in Trinidad, you change your colour thereafter. If that is so, that is your democratic right, but it is the democratic right of the electorate to then say yes I want you...I want green, I want yellow or I want red, that’s the chameleon that changes the colours,” she continued.
Volney claimed that St Joseph had “gone green” and interim chairman of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) Jack Warner will speak on behalf of the constituents in the Parliament.
Persad-Bissessar disclosed that Singh would ensure that the needs of the people of St Joseph are attended to.
“We will put a caretaker person in the constituency to service the constituents there...certainly they will not be able to raise those matters in the Parliament, but through the rest of us who were all elected on a similar ticket, whether UNC or (People’s) Partnership, we will take up their issues in the Parliament.” she said.
The Prime Minister said she did her constitutional duty in writing to the Speaker to inform that Volney had resigned as a UNC member.
“I had a constitutional duty given the scenario and circumstances that arose to write to the Speaker, thereafter it is in the hands of the Speaker and now it is out of my hands.”
Speaking to the Express by phone, Singh, Minister of Water Resources and the Environment, said he will be moving into St Joseph tomorrow and looking for office space.
“We have placed St Joseph now in intensive care, we have diagnosed the situation and the Prime Minister in her wisdom has appointed me caretaker,” he said.
“I think that the needs of the constituents of St Joseph will have to be served, there is a kind of twilight zone that currently exists with the current MP, Herbert Volney, with whom I have an excellent relationship and I don’t know what is going to be the outcome of his battle and whether he will engage in litigation, but the people ought not to suffer because of that,” he added.
Singh, a former member of Parliament for Caroni East, said he was very familiar with the St Joseph constituency and the people.
Attempts to contact Volney proved futile as calls and messages to his cell phone were unreturned.