Deputy speaker may ask to take leave says PM
PRIME MINISTER, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, says there is no legal obligation for Senator Ashelle Morgan to be suspended from the House of Assembly, pending the outcome of the case related to the shooting of Diamond resident, Cornelius John.
He noted however, that “she may take a leave of absence…so that it’s not a distraction from the business of Parliament”.
Morgan, who is also the Deputy Speaker of the House, was arraigned on June 25 at the Serious Offences Court on the charge of assault with the intent to commit wounding.
The parliamentarian pleaded ‘not guilty’ and was granted bail in the sum of $2000 with one surety.
Since the shooting incident was made public, there have been calls for Morgan to withdraw from the House, with Dr Godwin Friday, the opposition leader protesting at the last sitting for the senator to withdraw, or be made to withdraw by the Speaker of the House.
“There’s no obligation on her legally to leave. Now politically, and personally, she may feel that she may take a leave of absence. But that’s a different consideration altogether, and people must be mature and sensible in their judgement and we have to build our institutions…,” the Prime Minister said on NBC radio yesterday.
He added that the senator will more than likely speak on her decision in that regard at some point, but that people must allow for the processes to go forward.
Gonsalves also commented on why Morgan would not be suspended from the House on Sunday, while speaking on WE FM’s “Issues at Hand” programme.
“The House doesn’t have any power under the standing orders to suspend Ashelle. The House cannot suspend Ashelle – the Speaker can if Ashelle breaks the rules in the House as has happened from time to time where a member gets suspended by the Speaker for his or her conduct in the House” he explained.
“But the issue is this; if you are sentenced, the law says, if you read the constitution, if you are on a sentence of murder anywhere in the Commonwealth, or if you are serving a term of imprisonment in excess of 12 months, you are disqualified from sitting in the Parliament.”
In addition to Morgan, Karim Nelson, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and Cornelius John, the shooting victim also appeared in court last Friday.
Nelson is charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounding John, and unlawfully discharging his firearm; while John has to answer to three charges in relation to circumstances likely to cause a breach of peace and using threatening language.
The men also pleaded ‘not guilty’ to their charges.
Nelson has reportedly been on leave since allegations of the shooting were made public. It was highlighted during Sunday’s radio programme that public officers who are charged in criminal matters are asked to either proceed on leave or be suspended, pending the trial of the matter.
Gonsalves was asked whether this same rule would apply to the government senator and Deputy DPP.
He said: “If you look under the constitution, you have a security of tenure…as a public servant, and the constitution provides for special rules in respect of public servants for that very privilege you have as a security of tenure. For instance, if you look at all the fundamental rights and freedoms, you’d see that there is always something qualifying that in relation to public servants… and then under that provision, particular regulations are made. Ashelle Morgan is not a public servant in the way in which she’ll hold the office of senator, but she doesn’t hold public office as a public servant”.