VOLNEY LOSES PAY
By SEAN DOUGLAS Wednesday, September 11 2013
ST Joseph MP, Herbert Volney, who was ejected from the House of Representatives last Monday by Speaker Wade Mark under the “Crossing of the Floor” provisions of the Constitution will now also lose his parliamentarian’s salary until and unless he wins any legal appeal against the ruling, sources told Newsday yesterday. An MP’s salary is $14,000 per month.
Volney was made to “cease to perform his functions as a member of the House of Representatives with immediate effect”, when the Speaker said a gap in the Standing Orders is actually filled by other Standing Orders.
The Constitution in section 49 gives Volney 14 days to lodge a legal challenge to his ejection which could lead to a lengthy legal battle upward through TT’s court system. Alternatively, he could resign and trigger a bye-election, in which he may choose to stand, or not.
Sources said while there is nothing to stop him walking around the St Joseph constituency, both inside and outside the House, he does not now have the status of an MP. Newsday was advised that although Volney now becomes non-waged, his constituency office and its handful of staff would continue to be paid by the State. During a meeting with constituents yesterday, Volney strongly hinted to reporters that he might both pursue legal action and also opt to resign, vowing to closely guard the date of such resignation which will largely determine the date of any bye-election.
“I’ll be filing my action. It is not to save my seat; it is to correct the wrong ruling of the Speaker. Whether I can force a bye-election and if so, those are matters that will be for me to determine. The Prime Minister can call the date 90 days after I resign but it is for me to decide the timing of the bye-election within 90 days (of his resignation),” he said. “I propose not to spend that card cheaply.”
On Monday, Mark ruled that for resigning from the United National Congress (UNC), the party under which Volney was elected in 2010, the MP had to cease his functions in the House of Representatives with immediate effect. Mark also said he had the power to recognise Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as the leader of the UNC, to give effect to her notifying him of Volney’s resignation. Volney had also written Mark informing him of his resignation from the party. Volney recently joined the Independent Liberal Party, led by former Cabinet colleague Jack Warner whose resignation from the Government and as an MP triggered a bye-election in Chaguanas West in which he was re-elected.
Yesterday, the Congress of the People (COP) issued a statement on Volney’s possible challenge of his ejection. “The COP considers that it will be of great value to the development of the politics and governance of our society that this issue be fully and maturely ventilated,” said the COP. “The COP considers also that an early determination of the legal action that is open to the MP for St Joseph will assist the entire society in framing our new Constitution in respect of the matters of candidacy, party representation and the role of the voters in the electoral and representative processes.”
The COP clarified Volney’s status, saying the Speaker’s declaration just said Volney has resigned from the party on whose ticket he had won his seat, and that there was no issue regarding timing of the declaration.
“The declaration by the Speaker does not make the seat of the MP vacant until a further 14 days, that is if the MP does not take legal action to prove that he has not resigned from the party whose candidate he was when he was elected as MP,” said the COP. “If the MP takes the legal action mentioned above, his seat shall not be declared vacant until the court has finally determined (up to final appeal) that he has, in fact, resigned from the party.”
The COP said that following Mark’s declaration, Volney ceases to perform the duties of a Member of the House until the final determination of his legal action.
“There is a view that the Speaker does not have constitutional authority to make the declaration he did,” said the COP. “The question is: Does the absence of the Standing Orders required by section 49A(5) of the Constitution prevent the Speaker from making the declaration at all? That question will have to be answered by the court in determining all the relevant issues in the matter. That is not a matter to be decided by the Speaker, any politician or anyone else commenting on the issue.”
Noting the recent national consultations on constitutional reform and proportional representation, plus the existence of coalition politics, the COP said, “the whole question of the appropriateness of the present provisions of section 49 of the Constitution has to be considered and evaluated”.
Although the COP stands by the Speaker’s ruling, its founder and Tunapuna MP Winston Dookeran yesterday described as “shocking” the events relating to the ejection of Volney.
Dookeran, in a brief interview with Newsday, was questioned on reports that he had made comments to the media on the development. “I thought it was shocking,” he said. But when asked to elaborate or explain what he meant by this, Dookeran, the Foreign Affairs Minister said, “No I don’t want to talk about that. Now is not the time. I thought you called me to talk about Syria.” (See Page 20A)