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Dr Friday writes Speaker on No Confidence motion ruling

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The New Democratic Party (NDP) has placed on record, their disagreement with the method used to stop a debate of the No Confidence motion they filed in Parliament on January 29.

“…as Leader of the Opposition, I maintain the contention advanced at the sitting of the House of Assembly on 31st January, 2018 and shared by all members of the House on the opposition benches, that the ruling which you made permitting the Government members to amend the Notice of Motion of No Confidence in the Government was unconstitutional,” said leader of the NDP Dr Godwin Friday in a February 5th letter addressed to Speaker of the House of Assembly Jomo Thomas.

The NDP’s letter came days after Thomas said in a Facebook post that he was wrong when he allowed the Government to amend a ‘No Confidence’ motion tabled by the Opposition.

“A similar motion will meet a much more enlightened Jomo, if I am the Speaker. I do not think we arrived at the right decision yesterday,” Thomas said on February 1, after he allowed an amendment by the Government that turned the NDP’s motion of No Confidence into a motion of Confidence.

In his letter to the Speaker, Dr Friday said that after the motion was handed to Thomas, it was obligatory for the said motion to be moved and debated and a vote taken on the question, in accordance with section 41 (1) of the Constitution.

The Opposition Leader added that the amended motion was in contravention of Section 47 (2) (a) of the Constitution, which talks about the procedure that should be followed when a motion of No Confidence is brought.

Dr Friday said in his letter, “Section 47 (2) (b) makes express provisions for rules and procedures that notice of a motion of no confidence in the Government may be given by any member of the House or the power of the House to debate and dispose of such a motion at any sitting of the House. No such rules of procedures have been made.”

He said, that in the circumstances, “the use of the provisions of the Standing Orders to amend a motion to negate the Notice of Motion of No Confidence is unconstitutional and a nullity”.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Dr Friday told reporters that there has been an outpouring of public reaction against the unconstitutional ruling which was made by the Speaker of the House, largely as a result of the undemocratic obstruction by the Prime Minister and other Government members, to frustrate and undermine debate on the motion of No Confidence.

“During the intense exchanges that took place in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, this outrageous statement was made, ‘Mr Speaker, with great respect, …I have already said that the Opposition can bring a motion of no confidence only if the Government acquiesces or agrees…Unless you have this initial step, which has to be overcome, you are going to have chaos in the Parliament’. These assertions were made by Prime Minister Gonsalves in addressing the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Jomo Thomas. The Prime Minister was stridently resisting the Speaker’s indication that debate should proceed on the motion of no Confidence in his Government that was signed by the seven elected Representatives of the Opposition (out of the total of fifteen Representatives in the House),” said Friday.

He said that it was the first such motion of No Confidence to be proposed over the past 17 years that the NDP has been in opposition and the Speaker of the House in disagreeing with this absurd contention by the Prime Minister, referred to occasions in Hansard (the official records of the House of Assembly), when the ULP was in the opposition between 1994 and 2001; during which time the PM was Leader of the Opposition for the latter two years, where several motions of no confidence in the NDP government of the day were presented to the House, all of which were debated, including one that went to debate at a time when there were only three elected opposition lawmakers.

“The outcome of his relentless resistance, which ensued over a period of three hours, was that the Prime Minister successfully bludgeoned the Speaker into making a ruling, that thwarted the Opposition’s motion of no confidence via an amendment that effectively flipped the question being proposed, from the House resolving its lack of confidence to a motion by which it was asked to express Full Confidence in his Government,” noted Friday.

“The NDP reiterates our earlier denunciation, that what was done goes against the Constitution of SVG, which many people who came before us have fought for, in order to ensure that we are able to benefit from those freedoms which it guarantees. PM Gonsalves has transformed our Parliament into a pantomime, by which he indulges himself in acting out narcissistic fantasies.

“He obeys those laws that he chooses to when it suits his purpose and ignores and tramples on those laws he chooses, when it does not suit his purpose to obey them. He functions like a veritable tin pot dictator and is viewed by many as pale imitation of the deposed Robert Mugabe, the disgraced former leader of Zimbabwe,” said Friday.

The Opposition Leader said that what is most intriguing about the PM’s frustration of the motion of no confidence, is that during the course of the heated debate on the impropriety of amending it, the Member of Parliament for South Central Windward, Saboto Caesar, protested passionately to the Speaker, pronouncing that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves does not have the moral or legal authority to speak for him.

“Minister Caesar was once regarded by observers as a leading candidate to succeed PM Gonsalves as leader of the ULP and Prime Minister, but more recently, the Prime Minister has been manifestly showing preference for his own son, Hon Camillo Gonsalves MP, whom the PM clandestinely elevated some weeks ago, to the post of Minister of Finance and thereby eclipsing any chances that Minister Caesar had of succeeding him and becoming Prime Minister; even as the older Gonsalves accelerates the process of handing over the leadership of the ULP and the mantle of Prime Minister,” said Friday.