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Ministers still hold office after dissolution of Parliament


At the signing of the Code of Conduct for the general elections last Tuesday, the representatives of the two main political parties locked horns on whether a Cabinet remains in place after the dissolution of Parliament.{{more}}

While making remarks at the signing ceremony at the Methodist Church Hall, Unity Labour Party (ULP) political leader and candidate for North Central Windward Dr Ralph Gonsalves stated that during the campaign falsehoods had been uttered in relation to the law.

“…They’re completely false, with an intention to create an entirely different impression,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer by training.

When asked by chair of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and candidate for East St George Dr Linton Lewis to give an example of one of these falsehoods, Gonsalves mentioned the issue relating to the existence of a Cabinet after the dissolution of Parliament.

“First of all, while Parliament is dissolved, a Cabinet is still in place, ministers are still in place, there’s a Prime Minister,” Gonsalves stated.

“That’s not the law,” Lewis, also a lawyer, retorted, to which Gonsalves replied, “That is the law!”

Lewis advised Gonsalves in a flippant manner to read section 51 of the constitution.

“I am the Prime Minister of the country until the next Prime Minister is sworn in; that’s the law of the land,” Gonsalves retorted.

“Read the constitution” Lewis repeated.

Section 51(8) of the Constitution states: “The office of any Minister shall become vacant- a. if the holder of the office ceases to be a member of the House otherwise than by reason of the dissolution of Parliament; b. in the case of the Prime Minister, if, when the House first meets after the dissolution of Parliament, he is not Representative; c. In the case of any other Minister, if when the House first meets after the dissolution of Parliament, he is not then a member of the House; or d. If, by virtue of section 29(4) of this Constitution, he is required to cease to perform his functions as a member of the House.”

SEARCHLIGHT consulted a legal expert who explained: “By virtue of section 51 of the Constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Prime Minister and the Ministers of the Government, though no longer members of the House of Parliament by reason of the dissolution of Parliament, still hold the office of Ministers of the Government.

“As such, the Executive Authority which is vested in Her Majesty the Queen, conferred on the Ministers of the Government through Her Majesty’s representative, the Governor General (with certain restrictions) is preserved, even after the dissolution of Parliament.”(AS)