The totality of our three articles on this subject (and this is our third and most persuasive) provides the template upon which the resolution pertaining to the Deputy Speaker absurdity reposes. So far we have focused some attention on Section 35 of the Constitution and elaborated upon Section 36. What necessarily and crucially should be juxtaposed with this piece of legislation is the Standing Orders Of The House OF Assembly Of Saint Lucia. On page (1) and under the heading, Title, it reads: “These Standing Orders are made under the Saint LuciaConstitution Order,1978 and may be cited as the House of Assembly Standing Orders 1979.”
As far as we know, no other piece of subsidiary or enabling legislation is so titled: thus putting the Standing Orders in a special and superior category of ascendency. Without it the House of Assermbly would not exist. Section 3(1) of the Standing Orders and under the caption Election Of Deputy Speaker reads: “At the first meeting of the House immediately after a general election or whenever it is necessary for the House to elect a Deputy Speaker by reason of a vacancy in the office occurring otherwise,then as soon as the Speaker has been elected and Members have taken the Oath or made the Affirmation (or so soon as prayers have been said and the Oath or Affirmation of any new Member has been taken) the House shall proceed with the election of one of its Members,not being a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary.”
What is to be noted is the two time frames being considered by thissection for the election of the Deputy Speaker. The word “or” is instructive. The first instance is at the first meeting of the House after a general election — and that is our present situation — and secondly,if there is a vacancy during the currency of a parliamentary term . It is only in these two instances that the election of a Deputy Speaker becomes relevant.
The question that now comes to the fore is how is how the election process is to be effectuated. Section 36(1) of the Constitution in part reads: “. . . the House shall elect a Member of the House who is not a member of Cabinet or Parliamentary Secretary . . .”
In practical terms any Member of the House,that is a Government Member or Opposition can nominate and Member to be the Deputy Speaker. For example Guy Joseph could nominate Alva Baptiste to be the Deputy Speaker or vice versa.
Of course depending on the focus of the nomination there will be a problem of acceptance. An interesting and amusing scenario indeed. As the situation now stands enlightened self interest would imperatively dictate what posture the Opposition assumes. The Opposition would in no way compromise or subvert its voting power in the House.
In the situation where neither side is proposing or accepting,and that is a situation not contemplated by the Constitution or the Standing Orders, the Honourable House of Assembly can not be reduced to a state of impotency and neither can its Honourable Members hold its processes in ridicule. To avoid such a debacle the Speaker of the House must Intervene. Parliament is sacrosanct and she is the Guardian of its substantive and procedural integrity.
And so in her humble magnificence she can invoke her undeclared,facultative and residual powers under Section 88 of the Standing Orders and by so doing extricate the Honourable House from an unwarranted and absurd situation . This Section reads as follows: “ 88(1) The Speaker shall have power to regulate the conduct of business in all matters not provided for in those Standing Orders. (2) The decision in all cases for which those Standing Orders do not provide, shall lie within the discretion of the Speaker and shall not be open to challenge.”
And so at the next sitting of the House the Speaker can logically,reasonably and lawfully order the Prime Minister (Leader of Government Business) to nominate one of his “majority members “ as Deputy Speaker and further order the Leader of the Opposition to directly or indirectly second the motion. Having so ordered she would then recess or adjourn the House so that the necessary ministerial divestment can be effectuated and the administrative and logistical manouverings could be carried out. Then at a later and convenient point the House can reconvene having been so alerted.
It is to be vehemently and acutely noted that the exercise of the Speaker’s discretion cannot be challenged. It is indeed remarkable that in politics non-issues can engage honourable minds with solemnity and gravity.
The author is a former Minister of Justice and magistrate.