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Volney now Independent
Herbert Volney has decided to operate in Parliament as a UNC MP, independent of instructions from the People’s Partnership Government whip. He said his constituents wanted him to function as an Independent. “My constituents are very hurt over my recent dismissal and they want me to be able to speak for them freely in the House as a UNC MP but independent of the PP whip,” he said yesterday as he walked his constituency seeking opinions on the issue.
Volney, who said he was made the “fall guy” in the Section 34 issue, spoke about his situation when the T&T Guardian contacted him yesterday to ask if he would attend the budget debate. He missed Monday’s budget presentation. Speaker Wade Mark said he had asked to be excused.
Yesterday Volney said he had been walking his St Joseph constituency since last Saturday gauging constituents’ views on his dismissal and asking whether he should resign or stay on. He said he had covered more than half of the seat. Yesterday he walked in Mt Lambert which was pivotal to his winning the seat in 2010.
Volney told the T&T Guardian as he walked: “The feedback received from constituents all over so far is that they have been very hurt by what has happened. I didn’t quite expect that but they are very supportive of me. “They have said they want me remain in Parliament and to speak for them as a UNC MP but they also want me to be able to represent them freely and independently in the House. I can only do that if I am not under the PP whip. If I am under the PP whip, I can’t be free to speak as I would have to toe the PP Government party line.”
He added: “As a UNC MP no longer under the PP whip, I will still continue to support the Government, but constructively criticise if things are not in the best interest of my constituents.” After the walk, Volney said: “I feel confident I have a mandate to remain in the Parliament for the rest of my term and the people want me as the independent voice of St Joseph.”
He won the St Joseph seat in the May 2010 general election as one of the UNC’s 29 MPs, with 10,835 votes to PNM’s Kennedy Swaratsingh’s 7,781 votes.
How it will work:
Asked how his new plan would work, since he was elected on a UNC ticket, Volney said: “The UNC brought me in as a candidate and offered me a ministerial position. “As far as I’m concerned, when the Prime Minister dismissed me, the dynamics of that political arrangement ended. “That’s why I felt I had to go to the electors this week to get a fresh mandate on how I should operate in the House and they have given me that, overwhelmingly.”
Apart from informing the Speaker today, Volney said he would also inform the Leader of Government Business. Once Volney removes himself from under the PP whip—no longer adhering to the instruction of House leader Roodal Moonilal—he will be adopting the position taken by San Juan Barataria MP Dr Fuad Khan and former UNC MP, Gillian Lucky, in 2005.
He is now expected to take up a backbench seat immediately behind the upper end of the PNM row at tomorrow’s budget debate. Yesterday Parliament officials said all Volney had to do was send a letter to the Speaker. They said the situation had happened many times before in Parliament.
Why he’s going:
Volney, 59, was fired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on September 20 for misrepresenting information to Cabinet concerning Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act. That followed widespread controversy over the clause, which was perceived to hold possible benefits for businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, now on fraud charges.
Volney said: “My constituents are upset I gave up my job as a judge to come and make a contribution to reforming the criminal justice system—and I was doing a good job—to be stopped in the middle of the term over nothing.” He clarified the “nothing” to mean the Clause 34 issue. He added: “I was unjustifiably fired. Yes, I said I erred but my feeling is you don’t fire someone for that kind of error.
“I was made the fall guy in this situation, obviously. The decision to proclaim the section was confirmed by the Cabinet. “They could have seen the situation when the amendment was returned from the Senate to the House. But they said nothing. “It could have been stopped but everyone lapsed. “This was nothing short of a parliamentary oversight that happened, a lacuna which has created this conundrum, for which I was made the fall guy. “That’s why my constituents are upset their MP should have been fired.”
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