SHOULD I RESIGN AS MP?
By Miranda La Rose Friday, September 28 2012
Sacked Justice Minister Herbert Volney plans to meet residents of his St Joseph constituency who he says will “determine my future in Parliament.”
Volney will first consult constituents who live in Mt Lambert on October 3, at a venue to be determined, to be followed with a meeting of St Joseph residents on a date to be decided.
Volney, who was fired on television by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar over the Section 34 fiasco, told Newsday yesterday that his future in Parliament as the member for St Joseph will rest with his constituents.
If Volney resigns it would force a by-election in the marginal seat. He contested the 2010 general election as a UNC candidate under the People’s Partnership coalition. He won 10,835 votes, while the then PNM incumbent Kennedy Swaratsingh received 7,778 votes.
The electoral districts of Mt Lambert and St Joseph, Volney however observed, “were swing areas in the last elections, so I need to know their thinking. They did not vote along party lines. They voted on issues.”
On Wednesday, Newsday was unable to contact Volney during visits at his constituency office in Mt Lambert, and at his sub-constituency offices in St Joseph and Aranjuez.
He told Newsday in a phone interview yesterday that he had expected to be in the main office by lunchtime that day but could not because he had to tend to a number of personal business matters that involved his transition from his former ministerial portfolio to that of “Citizen Volney.”
Nevertheless, he emphasised that all of the offices were opened, and members of the public who had wanted to meet with him made appointments.
Because he now has more time on his hands, Volney said, “I am reorganising and restructuring time and activities for delivery on the ground.”
There were mixed reactions on Wednesday from his constituents in Mt Lambert and St Joseph as to whether or not he should resign from Parliament.
In Mt Lambert, a resident said Volney should offer Parliament his resignation, while another said people voted him in, so people should vote him out.
Another said he was neither “here nor there” about Volney, but Volney should do what he thinks was right.
While one week ago, eight of ten residents polled in Aranjuez were not in favour of Volney resigning as MP, on Wednesday four were in favour of him resigning and another four were against.
Two persons from among a group of about eight Mt D’Or residents, told Newsday Volney was one of a few MPs for the area who visited regularly and was very helpful to them. The majority in the group did not think he should resign.
Most of the Mt D’Or residents felt he was used by Government “as the fall guy” for everybody’s mistake.
He visits their area regularly, they said, “even in rubber slippers and short pants, meeting and listening to people.”
Since he was dismissed from Cabinet over the early proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, Volney told Newsday that he now has more time for his constituents, even as he plans to have them say whether he should go or stay as their MP.
Told that a resident of Mt D’Or said he helps people from his pocket, Volney jokingly replied, “I pick the pockets of the rich to help the poor. There are many rich people in St Joseph constituency. I’m the Robin Hood of St Joseph.”
Assistance given in the form of book vouchers to some of his constituents who needed school supplies for this school year, he said, did not come from his pocket, but were from other constituents, who could have afforded to give of their wealth. The last MP who resigned his seat was Ralph Maraj in 1995.
Maraj entered politics in 1991, winning the San Fernando West seat in that year’s general elections on a PNM ticket. Maraj served as Foreign Affairs Minister from December 1991 until May 7, 1995 when then Prime Minister Patrick Manning announced in a television address that he was demoting Maraj to Minister Without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Maraj claimed then that was the first he heard of this shift in his ministerial duties. Later that year Maraj’s sister, Occah Seapaul, Speaker of the House of Representatives, was removed from the position following a power struggle with Manning. This saw a limited state of emergency being imposed around Seapaul’s home.
After Seapaul’s removal, Maraj resigned as San Fernando West MP, defected from the PNM and joined the then Opposition United National Congress (UNC). This reduced the PNM to an almost unworkable one-seat majority in Parliament.
Manning was forced to call an early general election which ended in a 17-17-2 result between the PNM, the UNC and the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) which won two seats in Tobago.
Maraj contested the Naparima constituency on a UNC ticket in that election and won and was re-elected in the 2000 general election. Maraj served as Communication Minister until he resigned from the UNC with Ramesh Maharaj and Trevor Sudama late in 2001. In the subsequent general election, Maraj lost his seat under the Team Unity banner to the UNC’s Nizam Baksh, who is the current Public Utilities Minister in the People’s Partnership Government.