The timely selection of a deputy speaker has become significant given the history of events that occurred under the previous Labour administration, when a deputy speaker was nominated and elected to the position, facilitating the opening of parliamentary business, but who resigned the following day.
At that time, Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas did not appoint a deputy speaker for the next five years leading into general elections. Then opposition members often protested that situation calling it unconstitutional.
It is believed by some political pundits that Dr. Douglas used the phrasing within the Constitution to withhold the nomination and election of a deputy speaker. The Constitution states that a deputy speaker must be nominated and elected at the “earliest convenience”, which, according to opposition members then, never came for the sitting prime minister.
Cognizant of that scenario, Attorney General Vincent Byron gave assurances to the parliament that a deputy speaker will be elected soon. He said, “This Government is very much aware of the travesty that occurred during the last term of this parliament, when on 11th March, 2010, the then deputy speaker resigned one day after having been elected, and the previous Douglas administration did not find it convenient for five years, for nearly 60 months, to nominate and have elected a deputy speaker.”
The deputy speaker is elected from among parliamentarians, but that person must not be a member of Cabinet. The government has available two senatorial positions, one was made vacant with the election of former senator to the position of speaker of the Assembly. It is the new senator that Government intends to nominate for the position of deputy speaker, as that new senator will not be serving in Cabinet.
Byron said in National Assembly, “The Government of National Unity is actively working to have such a person (a senator) appointed to the Government benches”.
The Office of the Deputy Speaker became vacant on 20th June 2016, When Senator Michael Perkins resigned as a nominated member of the National Assembly, and as a consequence his position as deputy speaker of the Assembly.
At a sitting of the National Assembly on 29th June, Perkins was nominated, then was elected to become the Speaker of the National Assembly. Perkins replaced Franklyn Brand, who had resigned the position earlier, after not presiding over several sittings due to health issues.
Under Section 30, subsection 1, of the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis, the prime minister will appoint an individual to fill the vacant post of Senator on the Government benches.
At the Tuesday, 23rd August sitting of the National Assembly, Attorney General Vincent Byron informed parliamentarians that the Government had not finalized a nominee.
Byron indicated that several persons have been considered and a selection has been made. However, he said the selection willl be announced shortly. According to the Constitution, the Assembly is required to elect a deputy speaker at the “earliest convenience” and such a member of the National Assembly must not be a member of the Cabinet or be a parliamentary secretary.
According to the AG, the position of the deputy speaker must be filled, “as the Constitution stipulates, ‘as soon as convenient’. We are committed to doing this.”
The AG told the Assembly that on the appointment of the new senator by the governor general that senator will be nominated to be elected to the post of deputy speaker.
He said, “This, Mr. Speaker, will be concluded shortly within a convenient time, as stated by the Constitution.”