Panday wrong about what a sitting is
By Ria Taitt
Parliamentary sources took issue with statements made by Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday — that no Speaker meant no Parliament, and an April poll. They explained that if the House meets and fails to elect a Speaker, that meeting constitutes legally a meeting of the House.
Legal and parliamentary sources agreed that all that was necessary to constitute a "meeting" of the House of Representatives was the issuing of the Proclamation by the President, the summoning by way of Order Papers to all MPs to attend the meeting, which needs only a quorum of 12. Once the Government holds such a "meeting", it has six months from the date of that meeting to continue in office without calling another such 'meeting'.
It is the Budget, parliamentary experts noted, which will be the critical test. Government has to bring a Budget by September 30. The failure or passage of this Budget will determine how long the Government survives. Once it cannot pass the Budget it must return to the polls.
It is highly unlikely that UNC MPs will get any salary or allowances for this entire Parliamentary term.
In fact, sources say they will probably go back to the polls without even having had a chance to take their oaths of allegiance and without receiving one cent from the Parliament. This is the likely scenario if the current deadlock over the question of the Speaker continues. It would be unprecedented, but at this stage it looks highly probable.
According to the Constitution, the Parliament must elect a Speaker and a deputy Speaker before the oath is administered by the Clerk of the House.
Section 50 states: "When the House first meets after any general election and before it proceeds to the dispatch of any other business, it shall elect a person to be Speaker of the House".
The Government and Opposition are almost certain to remain deadlocked over the issue of the Speaker, according to political analysts.
And there is good reason for this difficulty, sources said. The present equality of 18-18 would be jeopardised for one of the two parties in the Parliament once a Speaker is elected.
The Speaker in a hung Parliament has a casting vote. He has therefore the potential to either end the Government's life — by using his vote in the passage of a no-confidence vote; or to prolong the Government's life for five years — by the repeated passage of Budgets.
For one side or the other, the selection of a Speaker has tremendous political danger. And in the absence of any mechanism for enforcing the post-election agreement which had been reached between Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning, the gridlock would almost certainly continue indefinitely.
Therefore even if the Government convenes the Parliament, the procedure is not likely to go beyond the first item — which is the election of the Speaker. Unless the House can resolve this item, it cannot, according to the Constitution, move to the second item of business — the administering of the oath of allegiance to elected MPs.
This parliamentary term is expected to last for at least four months. But, given the signals coming from the Government it is more likely that the term would continue until September 30 when the Government is required to bring a Budget.
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