By Devonne Cornelius
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): A Resolution/Motion of No Confidence filed on April 25, 2022, by Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Shawn Richards still awaits action by the Speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Micheal Perkins. The Speaker, on April 27, indicated by letter addressed to Members of the National Assembly that he was “reviewing the Resolution” and intended to seek independent legal advice “to ensure that [the Resolution] meets the stipulated requirements of both the Constitution of Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.”
Efforts to reach Speaker Perkins for comment on the progress of his review and advice sought have been unsuccessful.
There is an ongoing and vigorous debate in the Federation on whether the Resolution/Motion is valid considering that it was filed “for a Vote of No Confidence in the Government…caused by the poor Leadership of [the Prime Minister]” by the Deputy Prime Minister, with the support of other Ministers of government. Such action is unprecedented in the political history of St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Motion of No Confidence Act, 2019, passed by the Team Unity Government provides that “where a question of no confidence in the Government is brought before the National Assembly, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the National Assembly Elections Act, the question of no confidence shall be determined by Resolution of the National Assembly within a period not exceeding twenty-one days.”
There is however another debate: when does the clock begin to run – after the Resolution was filed (on Apr. 25) or after the Resolution/Motion is accepted by the Speaker as being proper?
Speaking on WINN FM’s popular Inside the News program on Saturday (May. 07) Attorney-at-Law Mr. Chesley Hamilton gave his opinion on the matter.
“If the clock begins when the Speaker accepts or receives it, and that individual goes away and hides or has passed away, you cannot file? It makes no sense. I am simply saying to you that the Speaker is an office and when you file with the clerk, you file something with the office and that’s when it is stamped and recognized, and therefore that is what you take as evidence to indicate that you properly filed something with the Speaker’s office. If it depends on the Speaker to acknowledge or recognize…again, you are saying that the Speaker can procedurally frustrate the will of the elected representatives of the people.”
WINN FM understands that some local Attorneys-at-Law are arguing the contrary: that the official countdown of 21 days for the hearing of the Resolution/Motion of No Confidence only begins when the Speaker officially accepts and recognizes it.
“With the passing of the Motion of No Confidence Bill, 2019, in the National Assembly, the Team Unity-led Government of St. Kitts and Nevis took a major step in strengthening the parliamentary life in the twin-island Federation,” so notes a St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS) article penned September 20, 2019.
The SKNIS continued: “Prime Minister Harris indicated that such a legislation was only made necessary after the former Denzil Douglas administration refused to table a Motion of No Confidence filed against it by then Leader of the Opposition Mark Brantley on December 11, 2012.”
Prime Minister Harris, in a St. Kitts and Nevis Observer article dated January 05, 2019, is quoted as saying “Three Motions of No Confidence filed between 2012 and 2013 never saw the light of day for debate in Parliament…A Speaker of the hallowed chamber did not budge para nada to schedule them on the Order Paper for debate and vote as a matter of urgency and without undue delay.”
The article further read “Motions of No Confidence should be a matter of urgency and given priority. We will legislate on a reasonable time for debating and voting on Motions of No Confidence. No Parliament should be held hostage to the dictates of creeping dictatorship prior to February 2015.”
In a High Court Judgment issued in November 2017 arising from legal action brought by Prime Minister Harris because of the 2013-2015 delays in the then Speaker tabling the Resolutions of No Confidence in Dr. Douglas’ Labour Party Government, Justice Pearletta E. Lanns, concluded that:
“every elected member or elected representative in the National Assembly has an implied right under section 52-(6) of the Constitution of Saint Christopher and Nevis to bring a motion of no confidence, and to have that motion listed, debated, and voted on without undue delay and within a reasonable time. I also conclude that this court has jurisdiction and that the rights which are implicit in section 52-(6) had been violated by the failure of the Speaker to schedule the motion of no confidence for debate and to be voted on without undue delay and within a reasonable time of the motion being handed to the Clerk, or sent, or left at the Clerk’s office.”
Despite the Motion of No Confidence Act, 2019 and the Justice Lanns’ judgment, is history repeating itself with yet another Speaker delaying the tabling and debating of the Resolution of No Confidence filed Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Shawn K. Richards?