A United National Congress (UNC) Member of Parliament in the People’s Partnership of the Kamla-Persad administration in Trinidad and Tobago was removed “with immediate effect” from the House of Representatives by Speaker Wade Mark moments after Monday’s Budget presentation, in an unprecedented invocation of the “Crossing of the Floor,” provisions of the Constitution.
Herbert Volney, MP for the constituency of St. Joseph, about six miles east of Port of Spain resigned from the UNC – which party he had been elected to the House on May 24, 2010 – after being fired as justice minister over the “section 34” scandal, has since joined the Jack Warner’s Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
Mark began his ruling by citing the letter sent to him by Volney and Persad-Bissessar of the same date, which states, “I am to advise of my resignation from the United National Congress with effect from July 30, 2013 Honorable Speaker is to be guided accordingly.”
The prime minister had written the speaker indicating to him that Volney had resigned from the UNC.
Mark quoted section 49 (2)(e) of the Constitution, ‘A member of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House … where having been a candidate of a party and elected to the House, he resigns from or has been expelled by that party.”
Mark said section 49 (1) said that in such circumstances the party leader in the House must write to inform the speaker, who shall at the next sitting declare the MP to have resigned or been expelled from the party.
The Speaker went on to quote several sections of the Constitution in making his decision.
Volney, a former judge of the criminal court accused Mark of violating his constitutional rights, promised a legal challenge and vowed to continue to serve his constituents on the ground while Warner handles the St. Joseph constituency affairs in the House.
Should Volney resign his seat it would pave the way for another by-election within three months.
In a response Persad-Bissessar said if Volney mounts a legal challenge or a by-election, “We will be prepared for any eventuality whether it be with respect to the legal action or with respect to the by-election.”
Two months ago Persad-Bissessar called a by-election after Chaguanas West MP resigned from the cabinet and the UNC, but the party lost and the ILP leader retained his seat in the House.