“THE Opposition will not appoint a Deputy Speaker!”
The Leader of the Opposition Philip J Pierre was adamant that the position of his party in the ongoing saga of the vacant Deputy House Speaker position will not change.
Earlier, the now-former President of the Senate and former Magistrate, Andy Daniel, had been appointed as the new Speaker of the House; while Jeannine Michele Giraudy-McIntyre, took his place as the new President of the Senate.
Pierre, fielding questions from the media after the Tuesday meeting of the House, touched on the new appointment, citing it as evidence that there’s nothing preventing the government from doing the same thing and nominating and appointing a Deputy Speaker.
“The Government used its majority and appointed the Speaker, so it shows that the Government can appoint both a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker without the concurrence of the Opposition.”
The Leader of the Opposition also said that he had no idea who was to become the new Speaker of the House, claiming that the Prime Minister did not tell him before hand.
“The Prime Minister never mentioned to me who he was appointing as Speaker. I had no idea,” Pierre told the media.
When asked if the Opposition would nominate anyone for the role of Deputy Speaker, the Castries East MP stated emphatically: “No! The Opposition will not appoint or nominate a Deputy Speaker.”
Pierre also said the precedence set in St. Lucian Parliamentary history means that it is incumbent on the Government to nominate someone for the position, since the subsequent appointment would be guaranteed, given the voting rules of the House.
“We believe that the convention of the country dictates that the Government, as you saw this morning [since it] can use its majority to [appoint a House Speaker]… can [also] use its majority to appoint a Deputy Speaker.”
He went on to stress that never in St. Lucia’s history has the Opposition, nominated a Deputy Speaker, stating: “In St. Lucian parliamentary history, tell me what year has the Minority Party ever appointed a Deputy Speaker?
“If you tell me when, then we can have further discussion…”
However, the question over the Deputy Speaker’s appointment has not hinged on whether or not the Government can use its majority to appoint a Deputy Speaker. That has already been well established. The question that remains is “Is the Government compelled by the Constitution of St. Lucia to immediately appoint one?”
Likewise, the question is not whether or not the Opposition has ever appointed a Deputy Speaker, but rather:Is it constitutionally capable of doing so?
Regarding the constitutional necessity of the Government to appoint a Deputy Speaker, the debate hinges around the interpretation of the word “convenient”.
Persons both sides of the constitutional divide have already given their opinions on the matter.
Former House Speaker Rosemary Husbands-Mathurin stated to the press here that meetings of the House are valid “once there is a quorum and there is a chair” and that “One has to wait until, as the constitution says, it is convenient for all parties involved to name a Deputy Speaker.”
However, former Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony disagreed with that interpretation of the “convenient” aspect of the law, stating that one has to “look at the history of how the provision has been interpreted and the practices surrounding that to give definition and meaning to the provision of the constitution.”
Regarding the ability of the Opposition to nominate a candidate for Deputy House Speaker, that too is clear as the Constitution makes provisions for it.
However, the real bone of contention for SLP MPs is that doing so would reduce the number of their votes in the House, while the ruling Party, rather than losing one, would get to keep all of its votes; a matter that neither opposition nor ruling party seem willing to budge on.