Opposition supporters protest outside Parliament on Monday. (iWN photo)

Opposition lawmakers walked out of Parliament yesterday for a second consecutive Monday, this time in protest over a decision that House Speaker Jomo Thomas made last Wednesday to allow the government to amend their motion of no confidence.

Before leaving the assembly chamber ahead of Camillo Gonsalves’ first Budget Address as Minister of Finance, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday handed Thomas a letter outlining why opposition lawmakers have decided to boycott the budget speech.

The letter also included legal authorities in support of the opposition’s position that the speaker should have allowed debate on the motion of no confidence.

After walking out of the assembly chamber, opposition members joined supporters of their New Democratic Party who had gathered to protest the Ralph Gonsalves government outside the precincts of the Parliament building.

One of the main issues highlighted on the protesters’ placards was the month-old scandal in which former model, Yugge Farrell, has accused the finance minister of cheating on his wife with her.

Farrell spent most of January in court-ordered psychiatric evaluation after she reportedly called the finance minister’s wife, Karen Duncan-Gonsalves a “dirty b***h”, which resulted in an abusive language charge being brought against the former model.

Farrell has been granted EC$1,000 bail and ordered to return to court on Dec. 17, 2018.

Speaking to journalist Ashford Peters along the picket line on Monday, Friday said that the letter to the speaker explains the NDP’s position regarding the speaker’s ruling “because we cannot allow it to stay the way it ended in the Parliament last Wednesday.

“You heard me say last week Wednesday night that this matter sets a very bad precedent,” he said, referring to his comment at an NDP rally in Kingstown.

The opposition leader noted that the speaker, at the request of the prime minister and the government side, had allowed the motion to be amended to become a motion of confidence in the government.

“The Constitution does not provide for that. There is no consequence to a motion of confidence in the government if the government brings it.  A motion of no confidence is a feature of the Constitution, it is a right given under the Constitution.”

Opposition Leader Godwin Friday speaks in Parliament on Wednesday. (iWN photo

He said that what should have happened was that once the matter was properly before the speaker, which he said it was, the speaker should have allowed debate on it.

“If the government survives, then it continues; if the motion carries, the government has to resign. It is either the prime minister resigns or he dissolves Parliament or the speaker could remove him,” Friday said of the possible outcome of a motion of no confidence.

“That’s the consequence. That’s how serious it is. And we were never permitted the opportunity to debate this constitutional motion. So how do we know that the motion would not have carried? Had it carried, they couldn’t present a budget today because the government would have fallen.”

The opposition leader further noted that Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, when the speaker tried to tell him all government lawmakers would vote against the motion of no confidence, said that the prime minister cannot speak for him.

Friday said there was a similar situation in St. Kitts and Nevis a few years ago when the then Denzil Douglas government did not debate a motion of no confidence

“We have to prevent these dictatorial tendencies from becoming the norm. And then in St. Vincent, this is the same playbook of Douglas that is being used here to stop a motion of no confidence from coming to the house?

“What are you afraid of? If it comes to house debate it,” Friday said, noting that the government says it remains confident that it has the support of the majority in the 15-member parliament.

He said that the motion of no confidence would test that belief.

“… how do you know that the government, as it stands today, is legitimate?

“This, of course, is the same question we are asking with respect to the petitions. The court of course, would decide that,” he said in reference to the two election petitions the opposition has brought challenging the results of the December 2015 election.

The High Court is slated to hand down, this month, a ruling on an application by the NDP to inspect the ballot boxes and other documents used in those elections.

“This one (motion of no confidence) was supposed to be decided in the chambers of the Parliament and we did not get a chance to do so because the government, Gonsalves and the other members of the government got the speaker to rule, against, I would say, his better judgment because I have read since that he had retracted his position.”

Thomas said on Facebook on Thursday that he erred in allowing the government to amend the motion. He noted that the Constitution is the highest law and said that the debate should have gone ahead as outlined by the Constitution.

“But the ruling stands; that you cannot bring a motion of no confidence in St. Vincent unless the government allows that,” he said regarding the effect of Thomas’ Facebook post on his decision in Parliament.

“How ridiculous is that when the Constitution says you only need three members to sign it (a motion of no confidence). If it was that you must have a majority, they would have put it in the Constitution and say you cannot bring a motion unless a majority of the members sign the motion. Not so?”

Another of the placards at the protest on Monday. (iWN photo)

He said that the requirement for three lawmakers to sign a motion of no confidence sets the threshold so that frivolous motions of no confidence are not brought.

“You must debate it. You can’t use the rules of the house, which are subordinate legislation, if you will. They are just rules and procedures for the house. You can’t use that to amend the Constitution. That’s essentially what they did there,” Friday said.

“We never got the opportunity to debate it and that is something that everybody should be alarmed about.”

He said a motion of no confidence is a legitimate way of changing a government, adding that it happened in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1974, in Australia several times and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

“It is a very fundamental and democratic right that we have to protect. This is so serious, so important. How does the government know that it has a right to bring a budget when it prevented a motion of no confidence from being debated in the house?”

Friday said that he feels bad that the speaker made the error in allowing an amendment to the motion.

“And you couldn’t say we didn’t try. We tried every argument we would in the house and I think we were very persuasive. In fact, the speaker was going with our argument up until the very last minute, when he suddenly changed his position and allowed them to amend the motion.

“The fact that he has said on Facebook that he made an error, that is encouraging but it still doesn’t change the verdict and it still doesn’t change the government’s position because last weekend, I heard members of the government, or their surrogates on radio essentially promoting the same position.

“… That is negating a constitutional right and what the speaker did in the house encouraged that sort of thinking. So the decision or whatever change of heart he had come to, that will have to materialize or make itself felt in some meaningful way, not just on Facebook,” the opposition leader said.

13 replies on “Opposition writes speaker about no confidence motion decision”

  1. Walking out of the House yet again — a childless temper tantrum at best — clearly shows that the NDP is not ready to rule.

    1. Brown Boy USA says:

      What should they have done when anything they put forward anything against this government, petition, no confidence, etc., gets dashed in the garbage bin as if they have not right to do what they are doing. There comes a point where you just have to say no more and stand up. You can’t take everything lying down and say it ok. Ralph would walked out and do worst if he was in opposition. Look at how he shut done the country when he wanted NDP out of power when he was in opposition. So come on C. ben-David, you have to stand for something or fall for nothing. Where does principle stand in our country? Good for Ralph but bad for Friday? Come on!

      1. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

        The Constitution upholds the position of the Speaker according to independent legal observers. There was a piece in the Searchlight from a Caribbean constitution expert in Grenada today which upheld what is going on.

  2. If the government side passes legislation docking the pay of those parliamentary members who deliberately boycott sittings of the House of Assembly, these hungry dogs would quickly scamper back to do the work the people elected them to do.

    1. You need to read and understand. I AM GUESSING YOU ARE CHOOSING A POLITICAL PARTY OVER THE CONSTITUTION RIGHT?SMH

  3. Who on earth is this halfwit C.ben-David, obviously a Labor Party or Ralph sympathiser to make such spiteful comments.

    Walking out of parliament is a strategy not a way to skip work.

    1. C. ben is more for the ULP than the NDP but I see his point. Walking out solves nothing. I do not know if Friday could have filibustered??? Are there any other options besides walking out? In effect, we do have a dictatorship in SVG. Gonsalves gets virtually everything and anything he wants. The No Confidence clause is great! Too bad that with this government the Constitution has been ignored. The people, ALL OF THEM, INCLUDING ULP should be outraged.
      Friday is right: What kind of a precedent does this set?

  4. This is my opinion………..
    I would say that this is what I would have done when I was 15 years old and my mother hit me. Rather than hitting back or cursing at her, I would refuse to eat the food that she provided for me sometimes for weeks on end, She would get worried that I would starve to death and she would complain to my friend who she thought would have influenced me, but I would still refuse to eat her food. At that time I did not not care much for some types of foods anyways, so I would just eat fruits. I am not vegetarian, never was This was just my way of getting back at her for hitting me for no justifiable reason.

    This is how I see politics in SVG now: A game between a government and a group of adolescents who behave like 15 year old. These are grown adults who are paid by the electorates to represent them against the polices of the government when presented. They are the people’s voice in opposition who were elected to speak on the behalf of the people and to debate supplying facts for and against certain proposals. That is why you are in opposition because you are not the majority, You are there so the voices of others can be heard! So you should be representing the voice of the people now!.

    How can the peoples’ voices be heard when they walk out from parliament? Who are you representing by doing this?
    Are you making some significant point and on whose behalf? Surely not the people of SVG!

    They have done this before and it seems to becoming a bad habit. We seriously need a third party of intelligent YOUNG voices who would dedicate themselves to work for the people and support and defend their causes. We need people with fresh bipartisan ideas, not 1950’s and 1960’s political views and personal politics. We need better representation in parliament and let the true people’s voices be heard. we needs less party politics. We need less party indoctrination. We need people who are not there to showcase but to work for and on behalf of the people! This is rubbish as my brother would say “Nonsense. This is foolishness!”

    You think grown adults would show more respect to their electorates and the people that supported them , gave them a high profile job and trust them to be their voices. Instead what we have here are a group of very irresponsible adults who rather not than attend the debate on the budget by walking out again thereby allowing the government to pass whatever they want.
    Methinks me smell aiding, abetting and empowering..This does not smell right for me. When they behave like this in adversity, it show a certain amount of lack of good leadership and weakness on their part!

    Come on the younger generation let your voices be heard loud and clear that you would not tolerate and support such negligence in your representatives!

    1. In case you have not noticed, the opposition has practically no role anyway. When they stay, everything gets passed by the ULP, if they leave…the same thing. Their only purpose in opposition is that they get to comment on things the ULP majority does.

    2. Well said. The problem with most posters is that they are too lazy or too dunce to do their homework by reading the constitution and analyses of it that clearly show that the government has a legitimate constitutional right to prevent debate on the no confidence motion for 21 days after it is tabled and can move other related motions during that period.

      I am a supporter of neither party because I believe: (1) both are mainly self serving; (2) we are a backward people that deserve them and they deserve us; and (3) no party on God’s earth could ever turn our country into a land of milk and honey for all given our lack of resources and the unwillingness of any politcal party we have ever had or would ever elect to enact truly radical political change.

      That is why Donald Trump surely had us in mind as well when he refered to Haiti as a @#$%hole country.

  5. Rufous Collins says:

    Elma Morgan you spent all that time writing all that shut?
    Anyhow, you are not SVG you ediot so speak for yourself. When they walk out they represented me and thousands like me.

  6. See one knows one the word is idiot!

    You need to get going and encourage others to do something productive rather than taking salaries under false pretenses.I criticise both parties..We need New thinking brains not what we are being offered and maybe if you are so smart you could get one of the jobs you fool.

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