Opposition will proceed with motion
Though she may believe otherwise, Dr Godwin Friday, this country’s opposition leader, holds firm that Senator Ashelle Morgan has a moral obligation to withdraw from the House of Assembly.
The opposition leader also told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that he intends to move forward with a motion in the House at Tuesday’s sitting of Parliament, which speaks “On Conduct and Responsibility of Members”.
Morgan, who also holds the position of Deputy Speaker, was recently arraigned at the Serious Offences Court on the charge of assault with the intent to commit wounding, as it relates to the shooting incident of Diamond resident, Cornelius John on April 13.
In light of charges brought against her, the parliamentarian requested a one-month leave of absence in the first instance from sittings of the House. This leave was granted by Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rochelle Forde.
“While there is no legal or moral obligation for me to take such leave, I chose to do so voluntarily because I do not wish for the upcoming trial to distract from, or overshadow the business of the House of Assembly,” Morgan said in a media release on June 29.
But Friday, who was removed from the last sitting of Parliament in May, after strongly objecting to Morgan’s presence in the House and disregarding the ruling of the Speaker, objects to this notion put forward by the government senator.
“I called for the withdrawal of Senator Morgan…pending the outcome of the investigation. Until that is done, I expect that the course she has embarked upon will continue and the notion that she has indicated in her letter, that she has no legal or moral obligation to withdraw, she definitely has a moral obligation to withdraw because this is a matter of public concern and for the nature of the dignity and decorum of the House of Assembly,” he told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday morning.
He added that “the way in which it was put in her request for leave suggests that the only concern had to do with the interest of the government, but there’s a burning interest for the people, and so I will insist that she had a moral obligation to do so and that is something that we will continue to maintain going forward.”
The opposition leader announced on June 23 the intention for members of the opposition bench to move a motion at the next sitting of Parliament.
The motion, which is to be moved by Friday and seconded by Terrance Ollivierre, the Parliamentary Representative for the Southern Grenadines, includes two resolutions which call for Morgan to withdraw from the sittings of the House pending the outcome of the investigations into the allegations; and for Morgan to be suspended from sittings of the House, should she refuse to withdraw.
Though she has voluntarily requested and been granted leave from the House, Friday said he intends to go forward with the motion.
“The motion was submitted to be debated and our plan is for the motion to remain on the Order Paper. The withdrawal, or the effort by Senator Morgan to take leave, it is set for a month in the first instance, whereas in our motion, we of course said it should be pending the outcome of the investigation and any prosecution as follows. Those time frames may not be the same, so therefore the motion is still relevant and we will keep it on the Order Paper,” he said.
He noted that “amendments may come in the House but the withdrawal of senator Morgan is a voluntary withdrawal as well, so it is a matter for her to decide, as it is now, whether she is there or she returns based on the voluntary nature of the return,and so we have to guard against that pending the outcome of the investigation”
Morgan is expected to appear in the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court on July 5.
Several protests have ensued as people voice their opinions that Morgan should withdraw, or be made to withdraw from her position as a senator, and Deputy Speaker of the House.
There are also plans for protests to take place on July 6, during the next sitting of the House of Assembly, which was initially meant to take place on June 29.
“We are encouraging the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines to show support for the position that we have adopted with respect to this matter,” Friday said. “…One way to demonstrate that, is to be there on Tuesday to say, this is one step in the process and we are, as citizens, concerned to see the administration of justice run its true course so we are going to, and we are calling on Vincentians to be present at the Parliament to show their support for the rule of law and the administration of justice.”
The opposition leader said his side of the bench will “continue to persevere with our actions to ensure that the Parliament functions in a way that we expect it to do, and we will take the business of the Parliament very seriously as we always do”.