KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is not pleased with the opinion of a constitutional expert that there was nothing wrong with the Attorney General voting to elect the Speaker of the House of Assembly last year.
“The Attorney General is not caught by Section 42 of the Constitution. She was entitled to vote. There was therefore no question of knowing or having reasonable grounds of knowing she was not entitled to vote,” Speaker Hendrick Alexander told Parliament last week.
He was citing the advise of Grenadian constitutional expert Dr. Francis Alexis, Q.C. who also noted that a clear and comfortable majority voted for Alexander to be re-elected as speaker.
Alexander was elected with a 13-9 majority on Dec. 29 but opposition lawmaker Dr. Godwin Friday — Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines, contended that only 12 persons on the government side were entitled to vote.
Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan, he argued, was not eligible to vote.
Opposition Leader and NDP president Arnhim Eustace said Monday that his party would be taking the matter to the court.
“The fact remains that the court is the final institution to give that judgement. You have opinion; well, let the court rule. Let the court determine and that is what we will be doing. The New Democratic Party will seek the ruling of the court on this matter,” he said.
According to Section 42(1) of the constitution, “Any person who sits or votes in the House knowing or having reasonable grounds for knowing that he is nor entitled to do so shall be guilty of an offence, and liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars, or such other sum as may be prescribed by Parliament, for each day on which he so sits or votes in the House.
However, according to Section 42(2), “Any prosecution for an offence under this section shall be instituted in the High Court and shall not be so instituted except by the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
Eustace reiterated his party’s view on the matter, saying, “… and that is why we raised the issue in the first place”.
“We published, based on legal opinion, what we thought was wrong and that is why we asked the Speaker to get a ruling,” Eustace further said.
Section 41(2) of the Constitution says that a question “shall not be regarded as having been validly determined by a vote in the House unless at least eight members, or such greater number of members as Parliament may prescribe, take part in the voting”.
There are 15 elected Members of Parliament in St. Vincent and six appointed senators.
The Constitution further states that references to members of the House in Section 41(2) shall include the Attorney General if he is a member of the House by virtue of Section 24(3).
Section 24(3) reads: “At any time when the office of Attorney-General is a public office, the Attorney-General shall, by virtue of holding or acting in that office, be a member of the House.”
Jones-Morgan is a civil servant.