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Opposition No Confidence motion set for Wednesday

Opposition No Confidence motion set for Wednesday

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The New Democratic Party (NDP) yesterday filed a notice of a motion of ‘No Confidence’ in the Government, after which they walked out of Parliament.

The motion of No Confidence was handed to Speaker of the House of Assembly Jomo Thomas by Leader of the Opposition and President of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Dr Godwin Friday, after a heated exchange between Friday and the Speaker.

Signed by the NDP’s seven elected members of Parliament, the motion gives five reasons why the House of Assembly has no confidence in the Unity Labour Party Government.

The motion states: “Whereas the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has been failing the people miserably in providing a satisfactory quality of life.

“And whereas the priorities of the government in its use of taxpayers’ money have produced totally inadequate health services and basic maintenance of roads.

“And whereas the collapse of the economy has deprived our youth of hope and employment opportunities.

“And whereas a climate of fear through intimidation at all levels of Vincentian society, has become widespread due to the manifest abuse of the powers of the State and its institutions, which are often employed as weapons against citizens, to serve the agenda of Government officials, their family members and associates.“And whereas there has been a breakdown in law and order, as demonstrated by the incidence of rampant crime and failure of the various agencies of law enforcement to protect the more vulnerable members of society, including the elderly, women and young persons.

“Be it resolved that this Honourable House declares No Confidence in this Unity Labour Party Government of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.”

The motion also says, “We, the undersigned representatives, hereby give notice in accordance with Section 47 of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Constitution of a motion of no confidence in the Government. We look forward to the attached motion being set down for debate in the House as required by the Constitution.”

The motion is scheduled to be debated tomorrow in the House of Assembly after the wind-up of the debate on the 2018 Estimates.

Prior to the motion being filed, Friday rose in Parliament and asked Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves to make a statement on the ongoing Yugge Farrell matter.

Gonsalves has been accused of having an extra marital affair with 23-year-old Farrell, who, on January 5, was charged with causing a breach of the peace by using abusive language to Karen Duncan, wife of Camillo Gonsalves.

Since the matter was first reported, it has consumed the interest of the nation, but Camillo has not commented on the allegations, although his father, the Prime Minister, and his brother, Storm Gonsalves, have spoken publicly on the issue.

Friday, addressing Parliament on Monday, said that it was important for the Minister of make a statement on the issue, “that has come to the public consciousness.” He said that he thought that Minister [Camillo] Gonsalves would have taken the opportunity under the agenda item “Statements by Ministers” on the order paper of the House of Assembly to “provide some clarity on the matter.”

But before Friday could comment further on the issue, Speaker of the House Jomo Thomas stopped him, asking the Opposition Leader to explain to him, the basis under the Standing Orders, under which he was rising to make such a statement.

“I think that we are governed by the rules of the House and if you are going to speak, you have to speak in relation to the Standing Orders and the rules. I am saying to you that the Standing Orders govern what happens in the House if you are going to speak,” Thomas told Friday, who responded by saying that the Speaker could, under Rule 81 of the House, permit him to make the statement he wanted to make.

“I am asking to be permitted to make the statement, because it is an important matter”, said Dr Friday, who asked Thomas to exercise the general authority of the Speaker.

“I see no reason why I should do that,” said Thomas, after which Dr Friday responded, “I am going to make the statement anyway, because I believe that the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines deserve to hear a statement.”

Thomas, pounding his gravel throughout the exchange between him and Friday, told the Opposition Leader that he cannot carry on outside of the rules, to which he responded, “…but you are refusing to exercise discretion in the matter very important to the House. This is a Parliament, where you are allowed to speak.”

Thomas responded, “If you ask me to do something and you point me to the rules and you can’t show where in the rules…because what you want is not relevant to the point you want to make. You cannot continue in the way you are continuing, because you would not be keeping with the rules…you do not have a legal basis on which you stand.”

Friday responded that the NDP’s Members of Parliament would leave the House, which they did after Minister of Foreign Affairs Sir Louis Straker, standing on a point of order, stated, “…Article 15 of the standing orders say, unless the House otherwise resolves, the business of each sitting shall be conducted in each order and I invoke Article 15 that we continue.”

After the NDP members left Parliament, Prime Minister Gonsalves opined that the NDP decided to walk out of Parliament beforehand, because they did not want to hear the Minister of Finance speak.

“They chose a bogus excuse to justify their walking out. They should be honest, up front and say, ‘We don’t want to hear him speak,’ rather than raise the bogus issue as a pretext to walk out. What they are doing is bringing your own office, Mr Speaker, into disrepute, because they will go out and say all sorts of things about you…,” said the Prime Minister, who stated that Friday tried to use the rule 81 in the wrong way.  

The NDP’s motion of No Confidence in the Government is likely to fail on Wednesday, as according to Section 41 (1) of the Constitution, “…[a] question of no confidence in the government shall be determined by a majority of the votes of all the representatives (elected members).”

There are eight elected members on the Government side and seven on the Opposition side.(LC)

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