Early determination of any legal action that former St Joseph MP Herbert Volney may take will assist the country in framing its new Constitution, says political leader of the Congress of the People (COP) Prakash Ramadhar.
In a release, Ramadhar stated the issue surrounding the St Joseph seat should be thoroughly examined and discussed at a national level, in the process of consultation with the people on constitutional reform.
“The COP considers also that an early determination of the legal action that is open to the MP for St Joseph will assist the entire society in framing our new Constitution, in respect of the matters of candidacy, party representation and the role of the voters in the electoral and representative processes,” stated Ramadhar.
Ramadhar heads the committee on the consultations with respect to constitutional reform.
He noted House Speaker Wade Mark’s statement in Parliament on Monday was nothing more than a declaration the MP (Volney) has resigned from the party on whose ticket he was elected as a parliamentary representative for St Joseph.
Ramadhar stated this was what the Speaker was required to do by Section 49A of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.
“There is no issue with respect to the timing of the declaration by the Speaker. Section 49A of the Constitution mandates when such a declaration must be made by the Speaker, following confirmation of the leader of the particular party that the member has resigned from the party,” he stated.
The Speaker’s declaration, he added, does not make the seat of the MP vacant until a further 14 days.
“That is if the MP does not take legal action to prove that he has not resigned from the party whose candidate he was when he was elected as MP. If the MP takes the legal action mentioned above, his seat shall not be declared vacant until the court has finally determined (up to final appeal) that he has, in fact, resigned from the party,” stated Ramadhar.
He noted in the meantime, following the declaration, the MP ceases to perform the duties of a Member of the House until the final determination of his legal action.
Ramadhar added there was a view the Speaker does not have constitutional authority to make the declaration as he did.
“The question is: Does the absence of the Standing Orders required by Section 49A(5) of the Constitution prevent the Speaker from making the declaration at all? That question will have to be answered by the court, in determining all the relevant issues in the matter. That is not a matter to be decided by the Speaker, any politician or anyone else commenting on the issue,” he stated.
Ramadhar stated further that given the discussion on constitutional reform, in which the issues of proportional representation has been raised in the national consultations already held, and given the reality that coalition politics is now part of our reality, the whole question of the appropriateness of the present provisions of Section 49 of the Constitution has to be considered and evaluated.
“The COP considers it will be of great value to the development of the politics and governance of our society that this issue be fully and maturely ventilated,” he stated.