PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday disclosed that she has written Speaker of the House of Representatives, Wade Mark, to find out whether the St Joseph seat should be declared vacant since its MP, Herbert Volney, has resigned from the United National Congress (UNC).
Volney was Justice Minister prior to being fired by Persad-Bissessar over the Section 34 fiasco.
However Persad-Bissessar, the UNC political leader, could not say whether this meant a bye-election would take place in St Joseph.
Volney resigned from the UNC on July 30, one day after former Cabinet minister Jack Warner was re-elected as Chaguanas West MP in a bye-election. Volney informed Mark by letter on July 31, of his resignation from the UNC. The Parliament was not in session at that time, having prorogued on July 17.
The House is expected to sit next Friday.
Speaking with reporters following the opening of the Golconda-Debe section of the Point Fortin Highway, Persad-Bissessar said, “Section 49 of the Constitution provides in a certain way, where any member of Parliament who contested a seat on a particular party ticket resigns from the party, there are consequences to follow.”
“So I have looked at those provisions, I have been in discussions with others, I have written to the Speaker, he’s out of the country so we will see what happens after,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Section 49 (2) (e) states an MP must vacate his or her seat in the House “having been a candidate of a party and elected to the House, he resigns from, or is expelled by that party.” However the actual mechanism to declare a seat vacant in these circumstances lies in Section 49A of the Constitution. Section 49 A states the leader of the party in the House on whose ticket the member was elected, must inform the Speaker in writing that the member has resigned, or is expelled from the party.
The Section further states that if within 14 days, the member does not initiate legal proceedings to challenge the allegation that he has resigned, or challenge his expulsion he must vacate his seat.
Section 49 A (3) states if an MP institutes legal proceedings, his seat cannot be declared vacant until those proceedings are concluded.
However legal sources said Section 49A (5) may pose a problem with declaring the St Joseph seat, vacant. This subsection states: “Standing Orders shall make provision for the identification and recognition of the leader in the House of every party, and for otherwise giving effect for this section.” The sub-section does not clarify whether the “leader” is the political leader, or the Government Chief Whip.
Government Whip Dr Roodal Moonial and Deputy Speaker Nela Khan yesterday said they knew nothing about the letter which Persad-Bissessar sent to Mark.
Asked if this meant a bye-election in St Joseph was imminent, Persad-Bissessar replied, “I can’t say that at this point in time.”
Even with Local Government Elections to be held on October 21, Persad-Bissessar said, “I think the country can withstand another election, we may or may not like it, but we must stay within the law. With respect to Mr Volney’s issue, with respect to the local government issue, we are following the law.”
Informed by Newsday that Persad-Bissessar had written Mark, Volney yesterday said this was “inimical to the democracy that we cherish.” On Thursday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan first disclosed a letter about Volney had been sent to Mark.