Statement by Speaker
Basseterre, St. Kitts Monday 8th July 2013.
- In view of recent events I believe it important and in the public interest that I speak to the matters of the motions of no confidence submitted to the Clerk of the National Assembly by the Leader of the Opposition and, more recently, by the Member for St. Christopher 5.
- Honourable Members will be aware, that on the 3rd day of April, 2013 I was joined as a Defendant in a claim filed by the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, together with Members for St. Christopher 8, 5, 10, 7 and 3.
- In my view, this claim which was filed against the Speaker of the National Assembly threatened both the independence and autonomy of the Speaker, and by extension, affected the rights and privileges of all members.
- While the public perception may be that the claim relates to a motion of no confidence in the government of the day, in reality, the claim seeks to surrender the independence, authority and autonomy of the Speaker of the National Assembly in the conduct of the affairs of the National Assembly, to be exercised instead by a Judge of the High Court.
- This is a threat which if it succeeds, will have serious and long lasting consequences. For this reason, I retained legal counsel and gave very firm instructions that this matter be defended with the utmost vigour.
- It remains my respectful view as Speaker of this National Assembly, that,
i. the High Court has no jurisdiction to hear any matter concerning the exercise of the Speaker’s discretion or decisions on matters concerning the management of the internal procedures and proceedings of the National Assembly; and
ii. the High Court cannot issue or make any order directing me, as Speaker, and/ or for that matter, the National Assembly, on how to apply the Rules and Standing Orders; or how to conduct the business and proceedings of the National Assembly.
- In other words, my case before the High Court is that the Court has no jurisdiction to compel me on any matter concerning my powers as Speaker or on the scheduling of any motion before this National Assembly.
- Given this position advanced in the Court, in a matter brought by certain Honourable Members, I did not think, and still do not think that it was prudent for me to make any decisions or further decisions unless the issue of my jurisdiction, the privileges of the House, and the parameters of the High Court’s jurisdiction were settled.
- I have now become aware, that the claim brought by the named Honourable Members has purportedly been discontinued with the filing, last Friday, of a Notice of Discontinuance.
- However, I am advised by my Counsel, that the filing of the Notice of Discontinuance alone is not the end of the matter. First of all, there is still the matter of costs which will have to be determined in relation to the claim which is being discontinued.
- But even more importantly, there is the matter of the application brought on my behalf which sought certain declarations from the court in relation to the powers of the Speaker.
- In light of the position advanced by the Attorneys on my behalf, it is my considered view, that once the Honourable Members who brought the case became seized of these issues of great public importance, they had a duty to prosecute the claim. By discontinuing the claim before a proper determination by the High Court, and by doing so at the very last minute, they may have inflicted a grave injustice on this National Assembly and the people of this Federation.
- By their actions, this National Assembly and the people of the Federation,may have been denied the opportunity of having these issues determined particularly by the High Court, especially given that a number of Non-Governmental Organizations, including the Bar Association, had criticized, if not condemned,the Office of the Speaker, as well as the National Assembly. These issues should not be left hanging.
- I have therefore instructed my lawyers to attend court on the date set for the hearing of the Application to Strike and to seek the court’s indulgence to hear argument and rule on these serious legal issues.
- In all of the circumstances therefore, I will continue to hold in abeyance any decision on the matters before the National Assembly relating to the motions which have been filed by the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, and now, by the Honourable Member for St. Christopher 5.
- I also wish to make it abundantly clear to all Honourable Members on either side of the aisle, that I will not permit any debate, however tangential, in relation to those matters which still are to be decided by me.
Now let us proceed
Hon. Curtis Martin