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SVG's Parliament in session. (iWN file photo)
SVG’s Parliament in session. (iWN file photo)
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Member of Parliament in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are slated to declare today (Thursday) that they are qualified to sit in the nation’s Parliament, something that has not been done for at least a quarter-century, contrary to the law.

However, some political observers say that the timing of the development is not intended to merely comply with the law.

They say it is a political manoeuvre intended to bolster any future case the government might bring challenging the suitability of Opposition Leader Godwin Friday to continue to serve in Parliament.

There has been some discussion over the past few weeks about whether Friday is disqualified from being an MP, because of his Canadian citizenship, which he obtained as an adult.

Friday, who was born in SVG and obtained Canadian citizenship more than three decades ago, has been representing the Northern Grenadines since 2001.

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But a commentary by pharmacist and political commentator Matthew Thomas, a few weeks ago, raised questions about whether the SVG constitution bars Friday from being an MP, because he has also sworn allegiance to Canada.

Friday and other political commentators have dismissed that argument, noting that a Member of Parliament in SVG must be a Commonwealth citizen — and not necessarily a Vincentian.

Godwin Friday 2
Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday. (iWN file photo)

The opposition leader himself has noted that in Canada, he swore allegiance to the same Queen Elizabeth II to whom he also swore allegiance in SVG.

The Queen is the head of state in both Canada and SVG, which are Commonwealth nations.

I am a Commonwealth citizen twice over, if anything. I am twice qualified,” Friday said on the issue on May 14.

During the May 3 meeting of Parliament, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had called to the attention of the House of Assembly Section 62 of the Representation of the People Act.

That section speaks to MPs making declaration of qualification and taking the Oath of Allegiance.

“Every person elected as a Member of the House of Assembly shall, before sitting or voting therein, make the declaration of qualification in Form A and take and sign the Oath of Allegiance in Form B,” the law says.

Gonsalves, the longest-serving MP currently, noted that he has been a Member of the House of Assembly since 1994 and has never made such a declaration.

“And the Honourable Clerk has indicated that she has never done that, because I believe what happened, — and this can be checked — prior to the Representation of the People Act, more than likely, there was not such a provision.

“I haven’t had a chance to research that. So that we have been doing it as we have been doing it since Statehood through the early days of Independence, because this was done in 1982.”

Ralph Gonsalves 3
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

The prime minister’s comment came during debate on the Attorney General Attorney General’s Reference (Constitutional Questions) Bill, 2018, which the government said the opposition believed it wanted to use to remove Friday from office.

“So, Mr. Speaker, in as much as the Honourable Senator Bacchus-Baptiste has raised the question, I want to suggest that since we haven’t done this at the beginning, … we should all, at the next sitting, I want to suggest this, that ‘every person elected as a Member of the House of Assembly shall before sitting or voting therein, make the declaration in Form A and take and sign the oath of allegiance in Form B’,” the prime minister said.

He noted that the fact that such a declaration was not made before does not invalidate any decision that the Parliament has taken because the law is clear on that.

The prime minister said the question can be looked at as to whether there is a requisite for the signing of the declaration by senators.

“This will be my own recommendation in that regard and I think Mr. Speaker, it is unanswerable, really.”

The speaker, Jomo Thomas, said, “If there had been an omission on the law, we have to comply with it.”

“We have to correct it,” Gonsalves said.

Since then, the prime minister has appealed to Friday to renounce his Canadian citizenship, saying that anyone who aspires to national leadership should not have divided loyalties.

“… when you become a citizen in Canada, you become a citizen not just to be registered, you have to swear a document of allegiance. You swear allegiance not just to Her Majesty, the Queen of Canada but swear allegiance also to the laws of Canada and to Canada,” Gonsalves said.

11 replies on “MPs to declare they are qualified to sit in Parliament”

  1. PM Gonsalves is feeling the heat. He is desperate now and will do anything to eliminate the opposition. It appears he wants to continue indefinitely as leader of SVG. He is looking more and more like a dictator. An honest man does battle in a very different way. Not with these sleazy, underhanded tactics. Trying to manipulate the judiciary. Move aside Gonsalves give someone else a chance to see what they can do to better the lives of the people in SVG. You have failed miserably. PM Gonsalves, take a hard look at the people. What do you see? Do the honorable thing Mr. Gonsalves, and call new elections. Please stop cheating the nation for your own gains. You should be ashamed.

    1. C. ben-David says:

      Please tell us how following the laws of SVG is a sign of desperation, dictatorial, an attempt to eliminate the opposition, sleazy, underhanded, manipulative of the judiciary, cheating the nation, or shameful.

      I just don’t get it.

      1. Do we have to spell it out in differential equations to prove that they are using the zero-sum principle?

  2. Another dirty trick by the master of dirty tricks. This wastes the time of the parliamentarians and therefore costs the taxpayers money, so it has nothing to do with the fact that obviously Friday is qualified. It has more to do with trying to make the people doubt him

  3. How about this…. When and if Friday does become Prime Minister, at that time he can renounce his Canadian Citizenship. That is fair and makes sense. Maybe Gosalves wants Friday to renounce his Canadian citizenship because Gonsalves himself apparently is not allowed to enter Canada.

  4. C. ben-David says:

    Let the court decide about this issue. As for me, I stand by my reading of the constitution which tells me that Friday has a legal right to serve in the House of Assembly.

    Likewise, the law says that parliamentarians are obliged to state that they are qualified to serve in the House of Assembly, contrary to r’s and Lostpet’s idiotic and biased remarks.

    Both individuals exhibit views that should frighten the rest of us.

    1. Mr. C ben David, you have now lost all credibility with me. I was thought to think independently and to make up my own mind. I don’t need to write an academic-style essay to prove my point. Anyone with good writing skills can use any data to support their point of view. But it remains that, a point of view. I don’t know what happened to you, but your type of objectivity appears to be ego driven and self-serving, and now it seems to be serving Mr. Gonsalves’ political agenda.

      Anybody with an ounce of sense can see that Mr. Gonsalves has aligned himself with Communist and Dictators. In the seventeen century, a calculus was made by a certain Mr. Smith in Scotland, to serve people with capital, not to serve common people. This imperfect system, flawed as it may be, we continue to this day to live and die by it, even though we see the consequences.

      When Mr. Gonsalves wants to move to disqualify a born Vincentian from governing then this arouses my suspicions. Mr. Maduro also used the law to dissolve parliament and to give himself dictatorial powers and look what is happening in his country. If you, think through Mr. Gonsalves action to their conclusion you will recognize this. Is this what you want for SVG Mr ben- David?

      Mr. Ben-David, when I share my opinion on this forum. It is out of love for SVG and not because I have a political agenda, and I know in my heart what is fair and what is crooked. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I won’t accept anyone wanting to dictate to me, what I should say or think while using derogatory terms or legal terms used by Clinical Psychologist.

      Recently, you were telling me how white sand beaches are made. Mr. Ben-David, I know, how quartz is made; what it’s properties and practical applications are, but It won’t be practical for me to go into those details on a newspaper forum.

      This is not a classroom. This is peoples lives, freedom and liberty that we are talking about.

      I love St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and I will do everything that will support and keep her safe.

      Mr. Ben-David, as smart as you think that you are, you, can be made to serve the SVG elite.

  5. C. ben-David says:

    Please tell us how following the laws of SVG is a dirty trick, a waste of time for parliamentarians (that take only a few minutes), or something that places Dr. Friday’s membership of the House of Assembly in doubt.

  6. Ralph is trying to weaken all the strong forces on the party he’s after dougie on the charge now Friday. Time election comes around they will be weaker … he’s a manipulator and a mastermind .. he Thinks he’s gonna succeed with it. He wants to keep POOR people mind one how by keeping the country in a certain state … don’t be fooled by him and his administration anymore .. Vote them to […] out next election .. all of them slave drivers and house slaves

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