The alleged shooting and beating of Mr Cornelius John has been covered a lot in the local media, attracting front page attention in the papers. It has been the main topic of discussion on radio talk shows for several weeks. And has even attracted regional attention. The New Democratic Party (NDP) has also been vocal on the issue and has called for senator, Ashelle Morgan, to step-down or be suspended from that position pending the outcome of investigation into allegation that was made against her.
We recall that during the meeting of the House of Assembly on Tuesday May 11, 2021, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. the Honourable Godwin Friday, was suspended by the Speaker, Ms Rochelle Forde, after he objected to the participation of Senator Ashelle Morgan in the proceedings of the House. Dr. Friday submitted that Senator Morgan should not continue to be in the House while the serious allegation against her was under investigation by the police (as has been confirmed publicly by the Commissioner of Police).
Subsequently, charges were laid against Senator Morgan. Contrary to what Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves thinks about Ms. Ashelle Morgan’s position as Senator, now that she is being charged, the NDP is of a different view and is continuing its call for Senator, Ashelle Morgan, to be suspended form the House of Assembly.
To this end, Dr. Friday has tabled a Motion in parliament which is set to meet on Tuesday, 6th July. The Motion is, On Decorum and Responsibility of Members. It is proposed by Dr. Friday, Leader of the Opposition and Seconded by Parliamentary Representative for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre. The Following is the Motion:
WHEREAS this Honourable House must seek always to promote the values and principles enshrined in our laws and democratic traditions and to foster respect for the rule of law;
AND WHEREAS each Member of Parliament is accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office;
AND WHEREAS each Member of Parliament shall never undertake any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Assembly as a whole, or of its Members generally;
AND WHEREAS it is alleged that Mr. Cornelius John was beaten and shot in his leg at his home in Diamond and that Senator and Deputy Speaker Ashelle Morgan was one of three assailants involved in the incident;
AND WHEREAS the Commissioner of Police has confirmed publicly that the matter is under police investigation and that Senator Morgan is a person of interest in the investigation;
AND WHEREAS this matter has stirred the conscience of our nation and caused many to question the administration of justice and the rule of law in St. Vincent and the Grenadines
AND WHEREAS Senator Morgan attended the meeting of the House of Assembly on May 11th, 2021 and the Leader of the Opposition with the full support of all members of the Opposition sought to invite Senator Morgan to withdraw from the sitting of the House or to have her suspended from the House pending the outcome of the police investigation into the serious allegations concerning her;
AND WHEREAS Senator Morgan was appointed by the Governor General acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and that appointment can be revoked by the Governor General acting on the advice of the Prime Minister;
AND WHEREAS Senator Morgan has not withdrawn from the House and her appointment as senator has not been revoked and thus, she remains a member of the House and the Deputy Speaker;
AND WHEREAS the Speaker of the House has a constitutional duty to interpret and apply the Standing Orders so as to facilitate debate and promote the decorum and dignity of the House;
BE IT RESOLVED that this Honourable House call on Senator and Deputy Speaker Ashelle Morgan to withdraw from the sittings of House;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that should Senator Morgan fail or refuse to withdraw, she be suspended for the sittings of the House pending the outcome of the police investigation into the serious allegations made against her in relation to the beating and shooting of Cornelius John.
Will the Motion be debated?
The Unity Labour Party regime has denied members of the opposition their rights to debate Motions in parliament. Will this motion, On Decorum and Responsibility of Members be debated? The NDP has brought several Private Member’s Motions to parliament which is their right and not one has ever been debated. For example, the Spiritual Social and Redemption Charter, Integrity Legislation, Electoral Reform and the Motion on COVID- 19 pandemic; the ULP government has blocked every effort by the NDP to get Private Member’s Motion debated.
The rules of the parliament allow for private members to bring a motion to the parliament once per year. Whenever, the NDP has brought a motion to parliament, either non-cabinet members of the government has brought a motion, or the government includes a number of Ministerial Statements on the Order Paper of parliament for that sitting, a strategy to use up the time that should have allowed for the debate, therefore preventing the NDP from debating its motion.
There was a similar occurrence when the NO Confidence Motion was brought against the ULP government in 2018. The No Confidence Motion was not debated after Dr. Gonsalves made significant changes to it and called it a Confidence Motion. This is what Dr, Gonsalves said during the intense exchanges that took place in the House of Assembly that day. “Mr. Speaker, with great respect …I have already said that the opposition can bring a motion of no confidence only if the government acquiesces or agrees….” The denial to debate Motions go against the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We wait to see what transpires on 6th July.