PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has written to House Speaker Wade Mark regarding the resignation of United National Congress Member of Parliament for St Joseph Herbert Volney.
Volney intends to join the Jack Warner-led Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
However, Persad-Bissessar could not say yesterday whether Volney’s actions would trigger a by-election, but that she would act within the ambit of the law.
Speaking at the official opening of the Golconda-to-Debe segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said, “The Constitution says that should an MP resign or be expelled from a party, the party on which they fought the ticket, the leader of that party should write to the Speaker of the House within the first sitting of the House where the Speaker is present.
“The Speaker will make a declaration that the member has resigned. Thereafter that member has 14 days within which to bring legal action to challenge any declaration that may be made.
“If no challenge is made within that 14 days thereafter, the seat is declared vacant. And as long as it is prior to the fourth year, a by-election is to be held.
“However, should legal action be brought, then the whole matter is stayed. However... in the Constitution, it says that the member shall not continue to function as a Member of Parliament. Therefore, whilst the matter is under legal dispute, the member is not entitled to carry out any function as a Member of Parliament.”
Earlier yesterday the Prime Minister was questioned by reporters following an orientation ceremony held for first year students at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus on whether moves were afoot to declare the St Joseph seat vacant, as there were claims Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had written Mark on the issue.
She said the matter was out of Ramlogan’s “jurisdiction”, but had been discussed at the UNC’s Natex meeting held earlier this week.
No definite decision has been made on the issue as yet, she said.
“Yes... it was discussed. Mr Volney has resigned as a Member of the Parliament and therefore it was discussed as to what could or should happen, but the AG has not written because he has no jurisdiction. What we are looking at is Section 49 of the Constitution, and that was indeed discussed. I will tell you more on it on another day,” she said.
Apart from resigning from the UNC, Volney has signalled his intention to join the ILP today.
Persad-Bissessar was asked whether Volney’s leaning toward the ILP had led to the UNC actively consideration to declare the St Joseph seat vacant. She said no.
“No, the law provides that where a person resigns from the party... The Constitution provides that where a person resigns from the party on whose ticket they were elected, they should also vacate their seat and that was the discussion,” she said.
When asked about concerns over the local government amendment that seeks to introduce proportional representation, she said it will not benefit any particular political party.
She said: “That particular amendment does not give any advantage to one party or the other. It gives every party an advantage that was not there before. So it is not an election ploy. It is something we promised. Now is the time. If not now, when? Because it is not something you can do after an election. If we do it after an election, it will take us three years before these positions can become implemented and therefore the timing is right.”
—with reporting by Joel Julien