Antigua and Barbuda
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OPINION: Sir Gerald Should Resign

King’s Counsel, Sir Gerald Watt


By Charlesworth C. M. Tabor, B.A., M.Sc., LL.B., L.E.C.

On the 7th June, 2023 the Member of Parliament for the St. Mary’s South constituency, Kelvin Simon, wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watt, KCN, KC declaring his intention to resign from Parliament pursuant to section 125 (1) (b) of the Constitution.

This simple and straight forward act by Mr. Simon as mandated by the Constitution has generated a furore of debate in the society, particulatly because of the weird and nonsensical interpretation by the Speaker of sections 41 and 125 of the Constitution.    

Section 41 deals with Tenure and section 125 deals with Resignation. Tenure implies the period of which a member may hold his seat.

The section makes it crystal clear that a member’s seat in the House shall be vacated (a) at the next dissolution of Parliamanet after the member has been elected; (b) if he ceases to be a citizen; (c) if he is absent from the sittings of the House for such period or periods and in such circumstances as may be prescribed in the rules of procedure of the House; (d) subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, if any circumstances arise that, if he were not a member of the House, would cause him to be disqualified from election as such by virtue of section 39 (1) of this Constitution; and (e) if, having been elected to the House by virtue of being a member of a political party, he resgns his party whip and withdraws his allegiance from the party: Provided that he shall not be required to vacate his seat so long as he remains an independent member of the House.

Now, firstly I shall comment on section 41 (1) (e) to show how misguided, unfounded and irrational the Speakers’s position is since he grounded his refusal (which he has no authority to do) to accept Mr. Simon’s resignation on the basis of section 41 (1) (e) of the Constitution.

In this regard, the question that the Speaker should address his mind to is this: Is Mr. Simon resigning his party whip and wirhdrawing his allegiance from the United Progressive Party (UPP).

The answer is a resounding NO. Sir Gerald Watt, Mr. Simon is still a member of the UPP and will be running in the by-election in the St. Mary’s South constituency on the UPP’s ticket.

My dear Sir that point alone shows how flawed your reasoning and interpretation of the Constitution is.

Secondly, the other conditions of section 41 (1) are what I choose to call “Conditions Precedent” or “Supervening Conditions” and by that I mean they are conditions that when they arise a member of the House SHALL vacate his seat.

For example and for your understanding Sir Gerald, if the Honourable  Chet Greene becomes an American citizen next week, pursuant to section 41 (1) (b) of the Constitution he SHALL (not MAY) vacate his seat in the House.

I will turn now to the position of the Speaker of juxtaposing and conflating sections 41 and 125 of the Constitution to arrive at his astonishing interpretation of section 125.

This position was also advanced by Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan on Pointe FM and also attorney Joanne Massiah on Observer’s show The Big Issues.

Sad to say, they too are just as misguided as the Speaker in their interpretation of the sections.

Now my dear readers, the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution is a document of over a hundred pages and in it, at several places, it would indicate that one section is subject to another section.

That is the clever ploy that the Speaker is trying to employ by saying that section 125 is subject to section 41.

If the Constitution intended any juxtaposition and conflation of sections 41 and 125 it would have said so quite clearly in either section.

Both sections as presently exist in the Constitution stand alone.

Section 41 deals with TENURE and the circumstances that can trigger the end of a member’s tenure in the House and section 125 deals with RESIGNATION and how it should be conducted procedurally. 

Moreover, a member of the House can resign at any time for whatever reason (which cannot be questioned) and not just for the four reasons of death, expulsion, disqualification or the dissolution of Parliament as the Speaker has argued obtains in England.

If the Speaker is correct in that view, how then would he explain the recent resignation of the former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson from the House.

Again, all this goes to underscore my point of how misguided and out of touch the Speaker is with reality.

I have watched and listened to the interview of the Speaker with Mr. Kieron Murdoch and the Speaker has struggled and struggled and struggled in that interview to make sense of his position and at the end of it, he has only compounded his nonsensical interpretation of the Constitution which puts him in an even worse light.

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Finally, I would like to say to the Speaker that the Constitution is quite clear at sections 41 and 125 and needs no aid in interpretation, so for you to be looking at what obtains in other countries and also to Erskine May is not only unnecessary but ridiculous. That is why a Constitution is the Supreme Law in every country that has a Constitution. I hope Sir Gerald is not still of the view that the Constitution can go to hell.

Please Sir, do the right thing and resign pursuant to section 125 (1) (a) of the Constitution and note that your resignation should be addressed to the House and not to you as the Speaker as in the case of Mr. Kelvin Simon.

As if this fair land of ours is not mired in enough constitutional nonsense, the Speaker can plunge it into further constitutional conundrum by not accepting the resignation of Mr. Simon and obviating the constitutionally required by-election.

Although I am not a praying person, I ask God to have mercy on Antigua and Barbuda for the stupidity that prevails in this country. 







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