GEORGETOWN, Guyana, December 30, 2018 (CMC) – Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, said, yesterday, that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, will have to address allegations that former government back-bencher, Charrandass Persaud, had been bribed into voting in favour of a successful opposition-inspired motion of no confidence against the government, on Friday, December 21.
“If a vote in the National Assembly was procured by unlawful means, to overthrow a constitutionally-elected government, that will have serious implications and the Speaker will have to address that issue,” Nagamootoo said.
“If you had a member of parliament, who knew that he had lost confidence in his party or his slate, he should have indicated to the House that he no longer wanted to support his slate and he wanted to endorse another slate, so that the House would know how to deal with that situation,” he added.
Persaud, who has since announced his resignation from the ruling coalition government, has said that he voted with the opposition, in a bid to clear his conscience.
“My conscience was stifled for long…they (government) voted for things that should not have happened, period”, Persaud told reporters, soon after the vote.
But there have been several reports, posted on social media, claiming that a bribe had been paid to the former legislator and, on Friday, a senior official of the ruling People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Aubrey Norton, accused a senior official of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of colluding “with forces in Trinidad and mobilised resources to bribe a sitting member of parliament, in pursuance of his hunger for wealth and power”.
Nagamootoo said that the Speaker of the House will also have to consider whether a simple 33 or 34 votes were needed for the motion to be carried. He said there is an overwhelming view that the motion needed 34 votes to pass, and that this was known to the opposition.
“They were privy to a legal opinion that says you needed 34. And so, they are in a quandary now how to deal with the situation, because the Speaker had indicated at the last sitting that he will return on the 3rd of January to address the consequences of the votes, meaning, did it meet the threshold under the constitution for a majority?”
Prime Minister Nagamootoo said people are “coming to grips” with the reality that it is not a majority that is catered for in the Standing Orders, as the House regulates its own procedures. The majority, he said, is addressed in the Constitution.
“So, the constitutional majority will have weight, more significance on how does one arrive at a majority… The formula has been one half, plus one. So, if you have 64 members of the parliament, your one half would be 32 and a majority would be 33. How then can you have 33 as a majority for 65, unless you can prove that 64 is equal to 65.
“So, you can see already that it is producing an absurd conclusion, and the Constitution would have never contemplated the creation of an absurdity,” he added.
Following the 2015 presidential and general elections, the coalition government received a slender one-seat majority in the 65-member National Assembly, and Prime Minister Nagamootoo defended the earlier decision of the government to accept the ruling, on Friday, December 21, that the motion had been successfully put to the vote.
“We accepted the ruling of the Speaker, because as an attorney-at-law, when a judge makes a ruling, you accept the ruling until you’re able to have that ruling withdrawn, those are things a court would do if it found it had been in error,” he said.