Minutes after Speaker Wade Mark declared vacant the St Joseph seat held by MP Herbert Volney, the former justice minister said the government will have a high price to pay as he embarks on a legal challenge to the development.Mark's ruling was made after the presentation of yesterday's $61 billion budget.After giving the basis for his decision Mark said: "I hereby declare that Mr Herbert Volney, MP, the Member for St Joseph, having been a candidate of the United National Congress and elected to the House, has resigned from the United National Congress. Accordingly, the Honourable Member is required under Section 49A(4) of the Constitution to cease to perform his functions as a member of the House of Representatives with immediate effect."Mark said Volney "shall be entitled to resume the performance of such functions only if and when the legal proceedings referred to in subsection 49A(3) are finally determined within the meaning of that subsection in favour of the Honourable member.
Earlier, Mark said he was informed of Volney's resignation as a member of the UNC by him and subsequently by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who said under the ConstitutionVolney's seat should be declared vacant. As Mark gave his ruling Volney got up from his seat, dismissed Mark by waving at him and walked out of the Chamber. ILP leader Jack Warner told him as he was about to leave,"This, too, shall pass.Volney then told reporters outside the Chamber his attorneys would initiate legal action against the Speaker's decision within 14 days as was provided under the Constitution.He said his attorneys had been preparing his legal challenge over the past ten days, as he had no alternative but to resort to the court.He said: "The UNC has silenced me and silenced St Joseph in the House of Representatives and they would pay a heavy price for doing that."Speaker Mark, he charged, "has acted as a judge, jury and executioner and has violated the provisions of the Constitution.""I was prepared for the worst," he said in the interview, saying he was scared for T&T as the country was being ruled from Rienzi Complex.
Volney said he was committed to correcting the Speaker's decision and had expected it to be made last Friday but the Speaker was absent.Asked if he was prepared for a possible by-election, Volney said he had given consideration to resigning the seat, but not "at the timing of the government. It will be at the timing of the MP, when my constituents tell me that we are ready in St Joseph to defeat the UNC and the PNM."Volney said in the interim, Warner, the Chaguanas West MP, would represent the St Joseph constituency in Parliament.The Constitution provides that an MP who crosses the floor should resign from Parliament or have his seat declared vacant.In the past, this process has run into an obstacle. The Constitution says the Speaker must be notified of the vacancy by the leader in the House of the party the MP formerly belonged to.It also says Parliament's standing orders should provide for the identification of the party leader. However, no such standing orders are in place.Mark ruled yesterday, however, that he had the power to determine who was the leader in the House of any party, and it was a matter of record that the prime minister was the leader of the UNC.He also pointed out that Standing Order 92 (under the rubric "General Authority of the Speaker") says "The Speaker shall have power to regulate the conduct of business in all matters not provided for in these Standing Orders" and by paragraph (2)... "The decision in all cases for which these Standing Orders do not provide, shall lie within the discretion of the Speaker, and shall not be open to challenge."