Former Prime Minister, Doctor Kenny Anthony has asserted that the appointment of a Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly is absolutely necessary, saying that the necessity is prescribed in the constitution.
According to Anthony, there are going to be emergencies in the life of a parliament.
“You can have very lengthy sessions and the speaker may need to have a break of some kind or another for some reason or another,” the former University of the West Indies (UWI) Law Lecturer told reporters.
Anthony, who is a constitutional lawyer by profession, explained that the Speaker can become ill or have a health issue that does not allow attendance at parliament.
The former PM said there was absolutely no doubt in his mind that the house is improperly constituted since it is clear that there is a provision which indicates that a Deputy Speaker is required for the business of the house.
He observed that in the matter, there was need to turn to practices and conventions of the past to determine how the situation is handled and the provisions interpreted.
Anthony pointed out that sometimes at the level of parliament not just the words of the constitution but the practices surrounding those words ought to be considered.
He recalled that during his tenure as Prime Minister, a Deputy Speaker was always appointed from the ranks of the government.
Anthony said he believed that there is evidence that the same was done during the tenure of former Prime Minister, Sir John Compton.
“You have to look at the history of how the provision has been interpreted and the practices s surrounding that to give definition and meaning to the provision of the constitution,” the former PM explained.
Anthony declared that undoubtedly, the convention is that the Speaker comes from the ranks of the governing party.
“You may recall the challenges that I faced when I had to ask Doctor Desmond Long to serve as Deputy Speaker – he was very unhappy; the people of Anse La Raye Canaries were very unhappy : ‘Why him?’ But then we were dealing with a similar majority as the existing government – it was an 11-6 situation,” Anthony stated.
He told reporters that the problem facing Prime Minister Allen Chastanet is that he has assembled the largest cabinet ever in this country’s history.
Anthony expressed the view that Chastanet wants to appoint all his elected MPs as ministers in the cabinet.
He said the opposition has 6 MPs and while the majority between 6 and eleven is not phenomenal like a 14-3 or a 12-5, with just 6 members, if one is lost as a result of sitting in the Deputy Speaker’s chair, in a critical moment it can weaken an already reduced opposition.
The opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has said that it is heading to court over the issue of the non-appointment of a Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.