BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Apr 11, CMC – The High Court has reserved judgment, pending the submission of written statements within 28 days, on the motion of no confidence that dates back to the last administration of then prime minister Dr. Denzil Douglas.
Opposition efforts to have the motions tabled in parliament were rebuffed for more than two years with the then government arguing that the Constitution did not offer a fixed time for a motion of no confidence to be heard.
The Speaker of the National Assembly Curtis Martin had also instituted legal proceedings when the Opposition sought to withdraw the motions on the grounds that he wanted the High Court to pronounce on its jurisdiction over the Speaker of the National Assembly.
The “Team Unity” government of Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said that matter was being pursued in the court because of its great public and questioned whether the rights of parliamentarians had been infringed and the constitution breached.
Oral arguments were heard last week Thursday with Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes appearing on behalf of the government, while Dominican Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan appeared on behalf of Martin.
“The then opposition, Mark Brantley I think it was and then Mr. Timothy Harris presented motions of no confidence to the House for debate and they were not put forward promptly or as they would have required and litigation started.
“Once litigation started the then Speaker of the House said it’s a matter of public interest for the court to have a ruling and for the parliament be guided by a ruling of the court on the status of a motion of no confidence, on the right to bring a motion of no confidence and on the status and content of the Standing Orders,” Astaphan said on WINNFM radio here.
He said as a result, “it took quite a bit of time to get there because as you know there were several skirmishes taking place.
“The long and short of it is, is whether as a matter of constitutional law that once a motion of no confidence is presented to the House, subject of course to ensuring that it is in order, it must be debated and presented as a matter of urgency or priority given regard to the exigencies of the government’s business or whether or not the standing orders need to be amended to give full effect or to make fully effective, the right to bring a motion of no confidence.
“It is strikingly odd in all of these standing orders that a Motion of Privilege must be heard urgently, the motion presented by a Speaker must be heard and presented for debate once it is seconded by a somebody in the House, but a motion of no confidence which could lead to a change of government has no presence, no specific expressed presence in the standing orders to give effect to that constitutional obligation and consequence,” he said.