Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock believes that House Speaker Jomo Thomas is in a dilemma.
The quandary surrounds what Thomas would do should the opposition bring another vote of no confidence ahead of his announced resignation early next year.
When the opposition brought a vote of no confidence in January 2018, Thomas, who was two years into his speakership, allowed the government to amend it to a vote of confidence.
Government lawmakers passed the amended motion in the absence of their opposition counterpart, who stayed away in protest.
However, he said in a social media post after the debate — and has maintained since then — that he was wrong in allowing the amendment to the motion of no confidence.
Thomas, a lawyer, has argued that while the rules of the House of Assembly allows for the amendment of any motion, they cannot trump the constitution, which outlines, specifically, how motions of no confidence should be handled.
But last Tuesday, Thomas announced that he had resigned from the Unity Labour Party and as its caretaker for South Leeward and would do the same for the speakership early in the first quarter of 2020.
Asked about his handling of the no confidence vote, Thomas told the press conference last week that it remains the lowest point of his tenure but is not something he can correct.
“I think it was the weakest point of my tenure as the speaker. I did say that the very next day. I cannot see how the Standing Orders, which are subsidiary to the Constitution, could trump something that the Constitution demands.
“If the Constitution says that there is something called a vote of no confidence, I don’t see how a subsidiary document can climb over that by saying any motion can be amended, which is what the standing order said. In my view, the Standing Orders need to be amended to say any motion except what the Constitution demands. I think that was the lowest point for me… There is no way to correct it.
But speaking on his weekly programme on NICE Radio on Wednesday, Leacock said that Thomas’ decision to quit as speaker is “escapist”, adding that the speaker “cannot have it both ways”.
“Jomo is sitting on a dilemma in that he doesn’t know when the New Democratic Party will bring to the Parliament another vote of no confidence and on that occasion, all will fall down, because on having said [he] walked and got the cobwebs out of his head and hair, he would have to make the wise and prudent decision that the Constitution is ahead of the House rules and allows the vote of no confidence to take place.
“And not only would the man be in his craw — which means that Jomo would have to have quite a size of craw — it would mean that he would choke up,” Leacock said, in an apparent reference to a recent outburst in Parliament, in which Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told Thomas that if he has something in his craw he should speak it.
“And, secondly, Jomo has to recognise as well that the way he handled the motion we brought for electoral reform was also not a help to advancing the democratic traditions. Look where we are in the fourth year of an election with indecisive measures with respect to the election outcome.
“He’s gonna sit there and see we go back with another breadbox ballot box election,” Leacock said, with Cummings adding, “And with those same people in charge.”
Leacock said Thomas should remain as speaker.
“And my encouragement would be for him to stay it out. He has our support to remain there as the speaker. And we all have imperfections as politicians and as human beings. But to the extent that we identify them, we can build upon them. We build and correct it. He has not always been with me or always against me and I know I have pushed him to the limit.”