Basseterre, St.Kitts (February 25, 2010):-Prime Minister Denzil Douglas’ attempt to fill his cabinet with unelected ministers to strengthen his own position as leader has created a quagmire for the Labour administration.
Section 32(1) of the Constitution states that, at its first meeting following any general election and “before it proceeds to dispatch any other business”, the National Assembly shall elect a Speaker, who, according to Sec.32(2) may be:
(a) a member of Parliament, provided that he or she is not a member of Cabinet or a Parliamentary Secretary (a distinction to which I will return later on in this discussion);
(b) a person who is not a member of Parliament but
who is qualified for election as a Representative or appointment as a Senator.
Section 32(3) then states that the next duty of the House of Assembly,
after it has elected a Speaker is to elect its Deputy Speaker who has to be a member of Parliament but cannot be a member of Cabinet.
In the recently held swearing-in ceremony of the Labour administration 2 unelected individuals, namely Nigel Carty and Richard Skerrit, were appointed as full-fledged Ministers which has resulted in a situation where all persons on the Government side are Ministers and Members of Cabinet. This therefore means that according to the Constitution this disqualifies any of the Government Ministers from being elected Deputy Speaker unless one of the Ministerial appointments is rescinded.
The Constitution does not dictate that the Opposition has any obligation to appoint or provide a Deputy Speaker however it states clearly that a Deputy Speaker must be appointed.
“With the government side ram packed with some 9 ministers 2 of whom weren’t elected, it is quite natural and frankly more sensible for us to adhere to our duty as the Opposition to appoint our Senator and that is all we intend to do,” said People’s Action Movement MP Hon. Eugene Hamilton. “The supposedly ‘experienced’ Prime Minister appointed a Cabinet without considering that the Constitution dictates that he has an obligation to also appoint a Deputy Speaker. Our interest is to duly appoint our Senator and we leave the Government side to fix the matter relating to the Deputy Speaker,” Hamilton continued.
Adherence to the Constitution will mean that for the Government to appoint a Deputy Speaker, they must rescind one of the Ministerial appointments made during the swearing-in ceremony. With Hon. Nigel Carty and Hon. Richard Skerrit being the only unelected members of the Parliament on the government side, it is foreseen that the appointments of one of these two will have to be rescinded so that either one can take up the position of Deputy Speaker.