I refer to the response from the Honourable Alden McLaughlin to my suggestion for an amendment to his motion.
Mr. McLaughlin would have noted in my original email to him on this subject that I referred to section 51 of the 2009 Constitution. So I acknowledge the import of this section with respect to the revocation of the premier’s appointment to office.
I believe that the reason for Mr. McLaughlin not accepting my recommendation is that he has mistakenly considered the revocation of the premier’s appointment by his excellency the governor and the Legislative Assembly’s ability to declare by way of a motion a lack of confidence in the premier or a minister as one issue when in fact they are two separate issues.
Section 51 (1) of the 2009 Constitution sets out very clearly what course of action the governor must take if the Legislative Assembly declares a lack of confidence in the government. The governor is duty bound to either revoke the appointment of the premier or call new elections unless there is some other member of the Legislative Assembly who clearly has the support of the majority of members in which case that member could be appointed as premier.
However, this provision in the Constitution does not restrict the considerable amount of latitude under the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly which all members enjoy with respect to motions that can be brought. It follows that it is entirely within the remit of a member of the Legislative Assembly to bring a motion asking the Legislative Assembly to declare a lack of confidence in the premier or any other minister of government.
The practical effect of such a motion against the premier, if successful, would be the same as a successful motion against the government, but a motion specifically against the premier is more likely to succeed. It would result in the revocation of the premier’s appointment by his excellency the governor because for the motion to be successful it would mean that the majority of Members of the Legislative Assembly have expressed a lack of confidence in the premier.
In the circumstances, his excellency the governor would be duty bound to revoke the Premier’s appointment and the appointment of the other ministers would also fall away to make way for the formation of a new government or new elections if the governor decides not to revoke the premier’s appointment at that time.
It is a mistake to assume that the filing of such a motion by a member of the Legislative Assembly would be unconstitutional because of section 51 of the 2009 Constitution. Barring motions which compel the government to spend money on a specific project or programme or motions which resolve to do something of a criminal nature, just about any other issue or topic can be raised by a member by way of a substantive motion in the Legislative Assembly, provided that there is a seconder for the motion. This is a fundamental right of members of the Legislative Assembly and as such care should be taken not to deprive members of such rights and privileges.
For the avoidance of doubt, the issue is not about who can revoke the appointment of the premier or any other minister of Government because that responsibility is very clearly for the governor under the Constitution. However, the governor’s decision to revoke the appointment of the premier can very clearly be triggered because of the actions of the Legislative Assembly in declaring a lack of confidence in the premier. Therefore, it is not correct to say that under the current Constitution it is not possible to bring a motion declaring a lack of confidence in the premier or any other Minister of Government. What is correct is that the success of such a motion by itself does not revoke the appointments of the premier and ministers. Only the governor can revoke the appointments, but as I said earlier, he would be duty bound to do so following a successful motion declaring a lack of confidence in the premier.
For these reasons, I conclude by repeating my recommendation that the motion be amended as I suggested in my original email in order to give the motion a real chance for success.
Perhaps today and in the days ahead I will have an opportunity to call the talk shows to discuss this matter further.
Charles E. Clifford