February 08, 2018
Dr. The Hon. Godwin Friday Leader of the Opposition Democrat House
RE: SECTION 47(2) OF THE CONSTITUTION OF ST. VINCENT AND THE
GRENADINES AND STANDING ORDERS OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
The above-captioned issues were the subject of much discussion in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, on the occasion of the presentation of a “Motion of No Confidence” and an “Amended Motion of Confidence” by the members of the Opposition and the Government, respectively.
At my request, the distinguished Caribbean and international authority on constitutional law, Dr. Francis Alexis QC, has submitted an Opinion on Section 47 (2) of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines under the rubric “Unique Provisions of the Vincentian Constitution on No Confidence Motions: Absurdity Alert.” The Opinion is dated February OS, 2018.
In his 13-page Opinion, Dr. Alexis opines, as follows, among other things:
“Section 47(2)(a) already expressly spells out limitations on itself. These are the time-frames, the change from the Speaker to the Clerk, and the shift from the motion being considered or disposed of to it being debated and disposed of. When provisions already constitute a coherent whole with their own expressed limitations, there is no basis for further implying other limitations into them.14
All such awkwardness and absurdity would be fully avoided by applying to
section 47(2)(a) a purposive construction. When this is done, a no confidence motion may be considered or disposed of in accordance with the power of the House, once this is done within twenty-one days of the stipulated notice. Failing that, at such time as the Clerk shall specify, the motion shall be debated and disposed of. This means that there is no obligation to debate such a motion any and every time notice of one is given.”
You probably are aware that Mr. Parnel Campbell QC, the erudite and highly-experienced former Attorney General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and esteemed Queen’s Counsel, has come to precisely the same conclusion as Dr. Alexis on the Section 47 (2) provision. Mr. Campbell made his views known on this matter with absolute clarity on his “Law and You” programme on SVG TV on Monday night, February 05, 2018.
I should point out that the opinions of Dr. Alexis and Mr. Campbell on the issue of Section 47(2), represent the views, too, of the Honourable Attorney General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Mr. Jaundy Martin, who had advised the Government accordingly. There are other learned and experienced lawyers on constitutional law whom I have consulted on this issue and they, too, all share the opinions of Dr. Alexis, Mr. Campbell, and Mr. Martin.
Thus, I am in excellent company in respect of the legal stance I took in the House of Assembly on Section 47(2) when your No Confidence Motion came up for consideration on Wednesday, January 31, 2018. So much, therefore, for the puerile disdain, arrogance, and wrong-headed view expressed by you on this subject, and on my reasoned position.
On the matter of the legal provenance of the “Amended Motion of Confidence”, I am fortified, too, by the clear legal opinion of Messrs Campbell and Martin, among other quality lawyers and experienced parliamentarians. Their views are unequivocally supportive of the stance I took in the House; they are at one also with the decision of the Honourable Speaker which he made to allow the debate first on the Amended Motion.
I am sure that you know that the “Amended Motion of Confidence” was supported and passed by a majority of all the Representatives in accordance of Section 41(1),inclusive of the proviso, of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In the premises, your “Motion of No Confidence” thus fell.
I urge that you and your opposition parliamentary colleagues take a wise and mature reflection of both Section 47(2) and the relevant Standing Orders on motions and their amendments. You would be misleading yourself and your colleagues if you persist in your wrong-headed and absurd stance.
All the best to you and your family.
Dr. The Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves Prime Minister