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Motion of no confidence ought to be heard in shortest time says PM Gonsalves

Since that call by Richards, who is the Parliamentary Representative for Sandy Point in the Federal legislature of his country, both the Opposition Leader and Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines have made their voices heard across the Caribbean.

While Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in response to a letter from Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace, stated that he saw no proper basis for his or other CARICOM Governments to interfere in what he called, the internal affairs of the twin-island nation, he was also very careful to express that the matter of a Motion of No Confidence is one that demands priority and urgent attention by Government.

Gonsalves also stated that it goes without saying that “a democratically-elected government ought always to be representative of the people.”

The experienced politician, who is known as a close personal and political friend of the Prime Minister Douglas, explained what he meant by adding, “That representativeness is made manifest in a government which commands the majority of the representatives elected in free and fair elections.” Simply put, what Gonsalves is saying is that if you do not command the support of the majority of the elected representatives then perhaps such a government is not ‘representative of the people’.

Gonsalves said he is also of the view that when a government no longer has the support of the majority of the elected members of Parliament, it has several options, namely; (1) To resign and cause fresh elections to be held; (2) to face a vote of confidence in the legislature, in appropriate circumstances, or (3) To act in accordance with any other appropriate constitutional directive given by the Head of State (Governor General).

For the Vincentian leader these are not matters that should be taken lightly because “These are eternal core principles of good governance.”

He holds the position that “…it is usual and expected that when a motion of no confidence, properly drafted, is duly filed against a government, such a motion ought to be deliberately considered and determined by the legislature in the shortest time practicable, having regard to all pressing and other extraordinary exigencies of State.”

Though the St. Kitts and Nevis Government of Dr. Douglas has tried to argue the case that there are no specific provisions in the country’s constitution that speak to a timeframe for the hearing of such motions, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent is however making the case that the hearing of said motions in the shortest time practicable is “an established constitutional convention in parliamentary democracy”.

Gonsalves also acknowledged that the St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution does not prescribe a specific timeframe for the debate and vote on the motion as is the case of the constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines which basically requires that such motions are addressed within 7 days. However, Gonsalves, who is also a lawyer, made what some have already termed a damning declaration that even though the St. Kitts & Nevis constitution is silent on a timeframe, “This does not mean that the eternal, core principles, and established constitutional convention, to which I have earlier averted, are inapplicable.” Dr. Gonsalves seems therefore to be sending a message to his counterpart in St. Kitts that the motion of no confidence is long overdue and it is time for the debate and vote.

He did not stop there however because he went further in his letter to suggest that the two opposition parliamentarians, Sam Condor and Timothy Harris, who crossed the floor to join the opposition, should themselves resign and face by-elections to re-new their mandate from the people who first elected them on the ticket of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party led by Dr. Douglas.

Both Condor and Harris have dismissed that notion as simply a distraction with no basis in law or other requirement.


 

 

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