Former Prime Minister, Sir James Mitchell. (iWN file photo)

Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell says he is concerned about the impact on democracy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines of the failure of Parliament to allow debate on Jan. 31 of the no confidence motion brought by opposition lawmakers two days earlier.

When the motion came up for debate, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves presented an amendment, which Speaker Jomo Thomas allowed.

The amendment turned the motion of no confidence — which if it had passed would have seen the government fall — into a motion of confidence, which has no legal or constitutional implications.

The government went on to pass the motion of confidence in the absence of opposition lawmakers, who had stayed away in protest.

The debate surrounds section 47 of the constitution and its interpretation.

Speaking on Boom FM on Wednesday, Sir James said he was involved in the creation of this Section 47, which he said was done during the Statehood conference in London.

“And I remember working on it,” said Sir James, who retired from electoral politics in October 2000.

Sir James faced a number of motions of no confidence in his 35-year career as a Member of Parliament, including 17 at the helm of the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) four-term administration.

He told listeners that he disagreed with the view of his former attorney general, Queen’s Counsel Parnell Campbell that there was nothing wrong with what occurred in Parliament.

The former prime minister also expressed disagreement with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, and Linton Lewis, former senator under the NDP — which Sir James founded, as well as constitutional expert Grenadian Francis Alexis.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

He said it would not be the first time that Campbell has been wrong on a very important constitutional matter.

Sir James said that as far as he is concerned, a motion of no confidence is “fundamental to our democracy”.

He noted that one would be brought against Jacob Zuma if he does not resign as president of South Africa.

“The motion of no confidence is a way you bring down the government. It means that the Parliament has no confidence in the government. That takes precedence over anything else,” Sir James said.

He said that he saw the references being made by one of the “geniuses” — Gonsalves, Campbell, Alexis, and Lewis – that says that the provision of the subsection shall be without prejudice to the power of the house to provide by its rules of procedure that a motion of no confidence may be given by any member of the house.

“Parliament never made any special rules, so the only rules we have are from the [Standing Orders],” the former prime minister said.

The Standing Orders give permission for Parliament to amend a motion if it is relevant, Sir James acknowledged, but noted that the Speaker and no one else can decide if an amendment is relevant.

“A motion of no confidence is not a motion of confidence. A motion of confidence cannot replace a motion of no confidence,” Sir James said, adding that while the government can amend a motion, the amendment must be relevant.

“But not to ignore the motion of no confidence and put in a counter motion,” Sir James said.

“Since when confidence is the same as no confidence? Confidence in the government is established when they vote down the no confidence motion.”

He said that people should not forget that there were three hours of debate over whether the motion should be debated.

“The speaker should have heard the prime minister’s side, he [should] have heard the leader of the opposition’s side and the speaker should have ruled. He should not have allowed any three-hour talk about what I am going to allow or disallow. He got himself into a tangle unnecessarily by allowing all that debating about debate. He should have said, ‘Go ahead, move your no confidence motion’,” Sir James said.

The government should then have been allowed to move its amendment, but should have been called upon to justify every sentence of it, the former prime minister said.

“And the discussion of a no confidence motion is fundamental to our democracy. We had what I call the stringed quartet, the prime Minister, PR, Alexis and Linton. They all became authorities on this whole subject, literally leaving everybody confused,” Sir James said.

Campbell, left, and Alexis in the Stranger’s Gallery of Parliament in 2009. (Photo: Ashford Peters)

They’ve been wrong before

He said that while he respects the four gentlemen, “… they have all, in their own time, in my view, not always been correct on constitutional matters”.

Sir James said he wanted to remind Campbell that when the NDP won all 15 seats in Parliament in 1989, Campbell had told him that it does not look right and suggested that the prime minister should appoint some senators.

The Constitution says that the prime minister should advise the governor general on the appointment of three senators and the opposition leader should advise on the appointment of two.

Sir James said that Campbell wanted him to appoint two senators, but he noted that he was not the opposition leader.

The former prime minister said that the governor general at the time sided with Campbell, but he told them that he would get an opinion from the Palace and a constitutional expert in London.

The expert and the palace said that his interpretation of the Constitution was correct. Sir James said, noting that Campbell’s position had been informed by advice from the University of the West Indies.

“So, sometimes, these foreign experts in the Caribbean give advice and you can’t rely on what they say…” Sir James said.

He said that Campbell in the most recent case has given precedence to putting a Budget Debate ahead of debate on a motion of no confidence.

“My case is that a motion of no confidence decides whether a government is there or is not there. When a motion of no confidence is tabled, it is incumbent on the government to prove that they have authority to bring a budget.”

Lawyer Linton Lewis, a lawyer, is a former senator of the NDP. (IWN photo)

Sir James said the only way to prove the outcome of the motion is to debate it.

“Why did the government not want the debate? What is it that brought this no confidence motion into the Parliament? Was the government scared about talking about the element of fear in the society? Were they scared about talking about the quality of life and that talking about the fear in the society might have involved Yugge Farrell?

“Come on! They are all components of the matters relevant in the society at the time that could have been discussed in the Parliament without interfering with the court.”

Political observers say that the motion of no confidence was intended to target Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves ahead of his first Budget, which was delivered on Feb. 5 and passed one day later, with only the minister commenting on the EC$993 million fiscal package.

The minister has been embroiled since January in a scandal in which a former model, half his age, has claimed that he cheated on his wife with her during a years-long relationship that ended in 2016.

Farrell has been charged with using abusive language to the Minister’s wife, Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, and will return to court on Dec. 17, 2018.

She spent most of January in a psychiatric hospital after then Kingstown Magistrate Bertie Pompey upheld an application by the prosecution at her arraignment — without supporting evidence — that she be sent for psychiatric evaluation.

It later became public that Farrell has been treated in the past for mental health issues.

The finance minister, who is the prime minister’s son, has remained silent amidst the scandal that has attracted regional and international attention.

His silence is apparently in response to his father’s advice to maintain a “dignified silence”.

‘the element of fear in our society’

The no confidence motion is believed to have targeted Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves. (iWN photo)

Sir James said that that in principle, a matter that is before the court cannot be discussed in Parliament.

“That doesn’t mean that you can’t discuss the element of fear in our society or intimidation of individuals… You can discuss all kinds of things and you don’t have to mention what is before the court.”

What is before the court is a charge of Farrell having insulted Duncan-Gonsalves, the former prime minister noted.

“Why was the lady arrested? And that question is important that we discus intimidation in this society. It is imperative that we discuss the element of fear of people not wanting yo’ to open yo’ mouth.”

He said he is sure that the prime minister and other people are aware of how dissent was treated in Russia.

“In Russia, they pick you up and they charge you with all sort of things and before you a get a judgment out of the court, they pick you up and they send you to Siberia in the Gulag and they inject you and after your body is destroyed, they destroy your mind.

“Well, we don’t want any gulag in St. Vincent. And we don’t want to start going down that road. We have to be careful with the protection of our democracy,” Sir James said.

He said he believes that Farrell will win the case and said she should sue the government if she does.

37 replies on “Sir James disagrees with ‘stringed quartet’ about no confidence motion”

      1. There is no one that comes here that speaks more fart than you David. In fact your farts are more semi solids.

        Here we have a man that was one of the architects of the constitutution that actually knows what it all means, and you David the great oracle know better.

  1. I am so glad that Sir James came forward with this. Jolly Green and many of us have mentioned the total stupidity or possibly corruption or both of a few of these lawyers. That includes the pretend lawyer that leaves comments on this site. I did not know that Sir James was one of the founders that was involved in creating clause 47. We now have lawyers like Gonsalves and Campbell that try to tell us that clause 47 is not worth the paper it is written on.
    I have been trying to comment that a Constitution is a group of laws with a different purpose compared to all laws written after the existence of a constitution that are all supposed to fall in line with a constitution. An amendment to a motion will never take relevance over a provision in a constitution unless it is an amendment to a constitution itself. That even pertains to the FAKE Confidence amendment proposed by Gonsalves, who is supposed to be a lawer. He may have got his diploma from the back of a box of Corn Flakes. Those who think Campbell is right should go take a constitutional law class to find out what the intent and purpose of a constitution is.
    Campbell (Gonsalves style) thinks he can take a part of one law and a pat of another law in the constitution mix it with a part of a Standing Order and use that to negate an entire section of the constitution…NICE TRY…SIR JAMES MITCHELL JUST PUT YOU IN YOUR PLACE!

    1. Lostpet, you have been right all along on this. I feel stupid for believing the nonsense of others on this issue.

    2. Your comment is based on nothing but personal prejudice: why not take the time — as I and others have — to actually read the relevant sections of the Constitution as well as the views of the so-called quartet, especially those of Linton Lewis printed into two issues of the Searchlight which you obviously have no access to or you wouldn’t be writing such nonsense.

      But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, in this case whether the Opposition will challenge the Speaker’s ruling and other parts of this issue in court, something, I strongly assert, they would never do because they kmow that they have not a hope in hell of winning based on the law.

      People like you might say that the courts are also biased. If so do you also include the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and the Privy Council Justices in England?

      On the other hand, if this is never sent to court by the NDP, would you possibly admit that they are simply grandstanding on an issue they know they are absolutely wrong about?

      Lostpet, I used to consider you my best Internet student; Now I am not so sure. The truth, my dear boy, focus on the truth based on hard facts, and not on your emotions or political biases and you will free yourself from the mental slavery our system of education, our upbringing, our slavery heritage, and our leaders have instilled in us.

  2. Too bad Sir James doesn’t understand the Constitution he helped frame. The confidence amendment was clearly germane to the non-confidence motion and, as an amendment, took precedence over it in a House vote. It was debated and then passed, thereby rendering the orginal non-confidence motion redundant and irrelevant.

    Still, this ignorance is in keeping with all the failed or mad development schemes he put in place during his 17 years in power: the Ottley Hall Shipyard and Marina; the aborted and environmentally destructive Union Island marina; the hated Central Market; the unnessary bus terminal at Little Tokyo; the ugly-ass financial complex; a cruise ship terminal on the wrong island (St. Vincent Island instead of Bequia); the nearly shuttered and decaying Bequia airport; the unwanted traffic lights in Kingstown; the useless road diversion at Mt. Wynne; and many others.

    Sir James’ main legacy would be that at least he wasn’t crazy enough to build a failed international airport at Argyle.

    1. Mr David, suddenly you are a planning expert among the semi solid fart that you talk. You are an expert on everything, Mr Know All, because you say so it must be true.

      What is really frightening is that you put yourself forward as a constitutional expert when in fact you are little more than a lame brained dodo.

      I would love to bet that you have spent some time in mental institutes as a patient.

      You and Binose are well known as internet crazies, you and he are from the same mould. The difference is that Binose was pro Vincentian and you are anti Vincentian. Everything you do, say and write is tailored to bring down SVG.

      You are a controller and abuser, you should ask yourself if the problem is you and not everyone else.

    2. C. ben, Are you saying that an amendment to a motion takes precedence over the Supreme Law of the Land? I have never heard that.

      1. What “Supreme Law of the Land” are you referring to. Please give me the exact constitutional clause.

        My understanding is that any and all amendments to motions in the House can be amended so long as the Speaker agrees that they are relevant to the unamended motion. This was exactly what happended in this case! This is why the NDP would never try to challenge this in court because the party would look like a bigger bunch of jackasses than they now appear.

    3. I was never a big fan of Mitchell, (although i cheer him for coming forward in this case) The “schemes” of Ralph Gonsalves make Mitchell’s seem non-existent. You have mentioned our “free” airport that costs 700 million even though the facts say otherwise. What about the Master Stroke? the list goes on and on and on! Now the Yugge Farrell affair…and much, much more!

  3. Actually, its called a “string quartet” — a group of four string musical instruments like violins — not a “stringed quartet” which has no English language attribution.

    1. You can be sure Son Mitchell knows exactly what he means, every word …….

      In a dusty corner of the Haunted Ballroom, you see a disturbing sight. Four ghostly figures hanging from ghostly nooses from a (non-ghostly) chandelier.

      Looking more closely, you see that the strung-up figures are holding stringed instruments — two violins, a viola, and a cello. How ghoulishly appropriate!

      Play, ‘Provare Compasione Per El Sciocco’

      1. The print media have quoted Mitchell as using the term “string quartet,” suggested that “stringed” was a typographical error on the editor’s part.

    1. “Old Heads like James Mitchell and PM Ralph” cannot go away until you ‘younger’ folks stop being dependants, empowers yo- all-self, take a stance, finance your entitlement-attitude and show the old papas and mommas that you all are not just educated but resourceful. You don’t seem to understand? They worry of what will happen to their earthly possessions and I really have to agree with them based on my observation especially of late. Stop being followers and be leaders and let’s start with you people in the House of parliament. Plain truth!

  4. Burton Williams says:

    Sir.James is a thinker and a creditable user of the english language; I am certain his use of the phrase- “stringed quartet” was deliberate, with political undertones.

    1. Sorry to disappoint you, Brother Williams, but the print media have today quoted Mitchell as using the term “string quartet,” suggested that “stringed” was a typographical error on the editor’s part.

      1. C. ben-David have you forgotten you once wrote this

        “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet (including my postings) because some 99 percent is pure bullshit.”

        Now when someone like you comes here purporting to be an expert in everything whilst using yourself a stolen identity, how can anyone believe a word you write.

        When you compare what Ralph Gonsalves told us he sometimes tells lies, and the effect that statement has had on people not relying on anything he says. So when you stated your own postings are 99% bullshit the same rules apply to you because that was also an admission of being an online liar.

  5. I know who he is Elma, a trucker friend told me a few weeks ago when I was in Camden Park.

    He cannot dance to the beat because he is out of step and of the wrong origin.

  6. With the utmost respect to Sir James, unless a court with competent jurisdiction proves otherwise, Alexis, PR, Gonsalves and Linton’s (most simplified of all explanations) legal explanations seems legally sound.

    We all know in legal spheres, what is written doesn’t always equate to intent. This is why laws are amended or repealed, judgments are appealed etc. Whilst I comprehend that as one of the framers of the constitution, your intent may have been one thing, as read, I am in total agreement with the esteemed analysis of my learned colleagues. Thus, I will stick with the analyses of the “stringed quartet” until such time…..

    1. Vincy in New York says:

      Vincy Lawyer, please go back and read the rules again because it quite apparent you are not sound on constitutional law.

      You CANNOT amend a motion of non-confidence with a motion of confidence! Any amended motion must be germane to the original order. It cannot be the opposite of the original order. Any amendment that is diametrically opposed to or rejects the original motion is NOT germane and is out of order.

      I am with Sir James with one!

      You and C. ben David are wrong on this one.

  7. This development is interesting: I was wondering were Sir James was on this issue. I remember the days when he singlehandedly took on the Labor Party in debates and created extensive cracks in its foundation, eventually wining all seats. Parlimentary debates were sweet, in those day. On the other hand, Mr. Cambell was a master himself, with clarity, eloquence, and authority in his presentations. He was his natural self on this issue as well ( thanks Vincypower for posting the clip on youtube). So Mr. Friday took his victory lap; Cambell, Dr. Alexis, Mr., and Linton ( never heard Linton’s presentation) said not so fast.

    The verdict seems to be still out with Mitchell’s perspective and he had a reputation to protect. Who, what next? The legal field has been a big attraction for Vincentians over the years and I sure more perspectives are forthcoming. Is the Caribbean Court Needed?

    Debates are becoming interesting again; the outcome of this one will be exciting.

    1. Read Linton’s further elaboration on the issue in this week’s edition of the Searchlight Newspaper. I must give him credit for putting forward the simplest explanation of the issue for the consideration and understanding of the “reasonable man and woman.” It’s lengthy but it is read-worthy.

      1. True, true.

        The amateur lawyers on this site don’t even know that when you present an amendment to a motion that is supported by a defined number of people and/or accepted by the chair — whether in a political arena based on legal precedent and/or a written constitution or in the private sector based on Roberts Rules of Order, in which case motions and amendments require a seconder — the amended motion must first be debated and voted on. If the amended motion fails, then the original motion may be debated and voted on, provided that a second, third, fourth, etc. amendments is not made, in which case the process is repeated.

        That we are a nation of dunces — a Donald Trump-style s**thole country — is what this debate about the non-confidence motion actually reveals.

      2. Most people won’t read because: (1) reading is not their strong point; (2) if they read it, they wouldn’t understand it (see #1 again); (3) they are not remotely concerned with the truth, only with political propaganda and liared commess.

      3. Vincy in New York says:

        Linton’s article reminds me of the saying that “common sense is not common”

        How can you amend a motion of non-confidence with a motion of confidence? Does that make sense to you? The ultimate question is – Is the amended motion of confidence germane to the motion of no-confidence?

        Confidence and no-confidence are black and white or true and false. An amendment must be germane to the motion it seeks to amend. Any amendment that is diametrically opposed to or rejects the original motion is NOT germane and is out of order.

        Sir James really schooled you guys on this one.

  8. Comrade Dr Ralph E Gonsalves [DREG] will love this because it is known as String Quartet number 7 which is DREG’s favourite lucky number. The composer Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich wrote Shostakovich’s String Quartet no. 7.

    I am sure Ralph and all his comrades will appreciate the fact Dmitri became a card carrying member of the Russian Soviet communist party in 1960. So DREG will feel at home knowing that quartet #7 is just for him, based in his ideals and beliefs.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8JxMvMFL4U

    The main difference was Dimitri knew how to dress and behave appropriately.

    After research I can safely say Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was never accused of rape or sexual assault, and was never known to wear silly red shirts and matching underwear.

  9. Man end of the day man, Mitchell need to go shut up and go sit his tail down somewhere man, like he was in power in st.vincent for a very long time please show me his track record where he improve things and made them better, because as far as i can see this man did nothing but make his pocket fatter and the people in his inter circle someone anyone prove me wrong

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