KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is once again advancing his thesis that Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has serious gaps in his basic knowledge of fundamental issues of governance.
And this time, to support his hypothesis, Gonsalves pointed to Eustace’s pronouncements on how a no-confidence motion can be brought against a government here.
Gonsalves last week accused Eustace and other leaders of the New Democratic Party (ULP) of meeting in Antigua with their financiers, who reportedly promised to fund a no-confidence motion against his 14-month-old Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration.
He said “the carrot” held out by the NDP was the promise of reinstating here the economic citizenship programmes that the ULP discontinued when it come to office in 2001.
Eustace said last week that what the NDP discusses is none of Gonsalves’ business, adding that the Antigua talks were not related to a no-confidence motion.
He, however, reiterated that his party is still open to considering an economic citizenship programme here.
Eustace is further reported by Searchlight newspaper as saying that NDP supporters are calling for a vote of no confidence against the ULP administration.
However, according to the publication, he said that based on the rules of Parliament, the next sitting, on March 26, is the only time this year a no-confidence motion can be brought against the government.
But Gonsalves, citing Section 47(2)a of the Constitution, said that Eustace is “just plain wrong”.
According to the Constitution, if a written notice of a motion of no confidence in the government, signed by at least three area representatives, is given to the Speaker, the Speaker shall, if the House is then sitting or has been summoned to meet within five days, cause the motion to be considered by the House within seven days of the notice.
If the House is not then sitting and has not been so summoned (and notwithstanding that Parliament may be prorogued), the Speaker shall summon the House to meet within 14 days of the notice and cause the motion to be considered at that meeting.
The Constitution further says that provided that the House does not, within 21 days of the notice, meet and dispose of the motion, the Clerk of the House shall summon a special meeting of the House at such time and place as he may specify for the purpose of debating and disposing of the motion.
“Now, it is the first time that I know in St. Vincent that the Prime Minister is advising the Leader of the Opposition about how to bring a vote of no confidence,” Gonsalves said of Eustace a former prime minister and minister of finance, who has been a Member of Parliament for 14 years, including 11 years as Leader of the Opposition.
“Well, if your supporters [are] calling [on] you [to bring a vote of no-confidence], read the law and see what the law says,” Gonsalves said.
“For this reason alone, if he brings a vote of no confidence, I now, having educated him on it, would [have] grounds for us to amend that motion which he brings for a vote of no confidence in him,” Gonsalves further stated.