Speaker of Parliament escorted to work under armed security

Though he has been the target of previous demonstrations by members of the united opposition parties, called Team Unity, the peaceful protest this morning, (Monday), in front of the headquarters of the government-owned National Bank, caused Speaker Curtis Martin to be aided by a heavy security detail, some carrying automatic weapons.

It is not known if the Speaker had prior knowledge of the group of protestors that had assembled at the central Street offices of the bank, but upon arrival for work, and upon seeing the demonstrators, he appeared to have been concerned.

This was just the latest of many tactics that the opposition has been using, especially after a High Court Judge ruled two weeks ago, that they had the right to challenge the Speaker’s actions in a court of law. The Government had tried to have the matter dismissed, claiming that the judiciary had no part to play in the affairs of parliament.

The judge disagreed and decided that the case will proceed- saying that the court can indeed intervene in the internal matters of the parliament once a constitutional right has been abridged.

Failure to call the motion said the judge, amounted to the constitutional rights of the opposition members being infringed. He said the motion must be tabled as a matter of priority, over any other business and within a reasonable time.

What was even more serious in the judgment was the judge’s warning that in the event that the Speaker is not guided by his ruling, the court has coercive power under section 96 of the Constitution, to order him to table the motion.

This has given even greater impetus to the opposition, which in the past couple weeks has taken to street demonstrations at least on four occasions; targeting both the Prime Minister and Speaker.

Speaker-Hon-Martin-entering-bank-with-protestors-nearby.jpg2Section 96 of the country’s Constitution is found in Chapter Six, under Judicial Provisions, and deals with the “Original jurisdiction of High Court in constitutional question”. It states, in its entirety:

96.- (1) Subject to sections 23(3), 37(10)(b), 50(7) and 116(2), any person who alleges that any provision of this Constitution (other than a provision of Chapter II) has been or is being contravened may, if he has a relevant interest, apply to the High Court for a declaration and for relief under this section.

(2) The High Court shall have jurisdiction on an application made under this section to determine whether any provision of this Constitution (other than a provision of Chapter II) has been or is being contravened and to make a declaration accordingly.

(3) Where the High Court makes a declaration under this section that a provision of this Constitution has been or is being contravened and the person on whose application the declaration is made has also applied for relief, the High Court may grant to that persons such remedy as it considers appropriate, being a remedy available generally under any law in proceedings in the High Court.

(4) The Chief Justice may make rules with respect to the practice and procedure of the High Court in relation to the jurisdiction and powers conferred on the court by or under this section, including provision with respect to the time within which any application under this section may be made.

(5) A person shall be regarded as having a relevant interest for the purpose of an application under this section only if the contravention of this Constitution alleged by him is such as to affect his interests.

(6) The rights conferred on a person by this section to apply for a declaration and relief in respect of an alleged contravention of this Constitution shall be in addition to any other action in respect of the same matter that may be available to that person under any law.

(7) Nothing in this section shall confer jurisdiction on the High Court to hear or determine any such question as is referred to in section 36.

LG-and-JP-protesting-at-National-Bank.jpg-2Though Government and the Speaker had earlier argued that the motion could not be brought because of the court matter, the judge made it clear that there was no obstacle and that the case did not prevent the Speaker from tabling the motion.

During a press conference on Wednesday 19th February, 2014, Prime Minister Douglas intimated that he is weighing options to appeal, or not to appeal the judgment. His Attorney General, Jason Hamilton, who was also at the press conference confirmed that the legal team had not yet advised the Prime Minister on a future course of action.

Speaker Martin was also the target of similar protest on Monday 17th and Friday 21st February, 2014.

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