Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says that unlike public servants who are suspended pending the outcome of criminal charges against them, Ashelle Morgan can continue as a senator.
Morgan, a lawyer and senator for Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party was, on Friday, arraigned on a charge of assault with intent to commit wounding.
She pleaded not guilty and was granted bail and is scheduled to return to court on July 5.
Karim Nelson, an assistant director of public prosecution, pleaded not guilty to wounding and unlawful discharge of a firearm, charges stemming from the same incident that led to Morgan being charged.
However, while Morgan has continued in her post since the April 13 incident, Nelson proceeded on vacation leave, and is likely to be suspended on half pay, pending the outcome of his trial.
On Sunday, Philbert “P John” John, one of the hosts of WE FM’s “Issue at Hand” noted to Gonsalves that public officers who are charged, particularly with criminal matters, are asked to proceed on leave or suspension, pending the trial.
“Does this apply for Ashelle Morgan and Nelson?” John asked the prime minister.
“No. No. No. Because if you look under the Constitution, there are several – you have a security of tenure, P. John, as a public servant and the constitution provides for special rules in respect of public servants for that very privilege you have security of tenure,” Gonsalves said.
“For instance, if you look at all your fundamental rights and freedoms, I don’t know if you have the Constitution there, you would see that there is always something qualifying that in relation to public servants. Have you noticed that?”
“No. No. No,” John responded.
The prime minister said he was going to get his “Volume 1”, an apparent reference to the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“And then, under that provision, particular regulations are made,” Gonsalves said.
“Ashelle Morgan is not a public servant in the way in which — she holds the office of senator but she doesn’t hold the office of… public office as a public servant,” the prime minister said of Morgan, who is also deputy speaker of the House of Assembly.
“Let’s look at some fundamental rights, if you have your copy [of the Constitution] there, let’s take – … take for instance, protection of assembly and association, section 11,” Gonsalves said.
“You know, 11(1) ‘Except with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association,’ then it goes on in sub-section 2, ‘Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision…’ (c) ‘that imposes restrictions upon public officers that are reasonably required for the proper performance of their functions, and except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society’.”
Gonsalves said: “The same thing with freedom of conscience; that is formulated a different way; freedom of expression, similar provision like the one there.
“Section 10, freedom of expression is like the same one, ‘Protection of freedom of assembly’. That is to say, imposing restrictions upon public officers that are reasonably required for the proper performance of their functions.
“‘Protection of freedom of movement’ — similar kind of restriction. And then, if you look, ‘Protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, etc.’, in relation to that one, ‘Nothing contained in any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of subsection (1) of this section to the extent that it makes provision with respect to standards or qualifications (not being standards or qualifications specifically relating to sex, race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed) to be required of any person who is appointed to or to act in any office or employment.’”
Gonsalves said: “So you see, even there, so long as it is not discrimination based on issues of ‘sex, race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed)”, you can place certain requirements on any person who is appointed to or to act in any office or employment.’”
The prime minister said that in the constitution there are “many constitutional derogations from the absoluteness of the declaration of a freedom or a right and there are some specifically in relation to public servants…
“I just make those references, you will find others too.”