As the imbroglio involving the political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Watson Duke and Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Farley Augustine deepened last night– a concerned citizen yesterday filed a constitutional motion to prevent the THA from moving ahead to elect a new Deputy Chief Secretary today.
Acting on behalf of Krystal Fordyce, a registered elector from the Darrel Spring/Whim district–attorney Vishaal Siewsaran of the Freedom Law Chambers, San Fernando, despatched a three-page letter addressed to the THA’s Presiding Officer Abby Taylor; President Paula-Mae Weekes and Attorney General Reginald Armour late last evening—in which he indicated the scheduled move by Augustine to elect a new Deputy Chief Secretary would be “illegal and unconstitutional” as, “The purported resignation of Mr Watson Duke as Deputy Chief Secretary is invalid and ineffective in law.”
Siewsaran had given the THA up to 12 o’clock last night to respond to the motion, failing which, he would have sought an immediate injunction to restrain the THA from continuing with the proposed election.
On Friday, Duke revoked Augustine’s appointment as a deputy leader of the PDP.
And in a release posted to Facebook later in the day, Duke also revoked the appointments of the two other deputies including Dr Faith B Yisrael and Alicia Roberts-Patterson.
B Yisrael is the Secretary for Health, Wellness and Social Protection and assemblyman for Belle Garden/Glamorgan.
As per the revocations–Augustine, B Yisrael and Roberts-Patterson were rendered ordinary members of the party.
In a letter addressed to Augustine dated September 15, Duke purported to resign as Deputy Chief Secretary of the THA—a submission Augustine acknowledged via a letter dated September 17, following which he indicated that it had been forwarded to the president and the THA’s presiding officer for appropriate action.
Augustine later gave notice that there would be a special sitting of the THA today, to elect a new Deputy Chief Secretary.
In his letter yesterday, Siewsaran wrote, “Our client is concerned to ensure that the rule of law is respected and upheld and is of the view that Mr Duke’s purported resignation is invalid, illegal, null and void and of no legal effect.”
He added, “In order to tender a lawful resignation, Mr Duke must, of his own volition, tender his personal letter of resignation to the Presiding Officer of the Assembly and the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Under section 8 of the Tobago House of Assembly Act, the Deputy Chief Secretary is elected by the Assemblymen and the President administers the oath of office.”
Section 142 of the Constitution governs the question of resignation and provides “(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, any person who is appointed or elected to or otherwise selected for any office established by this Constitution, including the office of Prime Minister or other Minister, or Parliamentary Secretary, may resign from that office by writing under his hand addressed to the person or authority by whom he was appointed, elected or selected;” and, “(2) The resignation of any person from any such office shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the person or authority to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that person or authority to receive it.”
Siewsaran stated, “In the circumstances, it is abundantly clear that the purported resignation of Mr Watson Duke as Deputy Chief Secretary is invalid and ineffective in law. There being no vacancy, it will be illegal and unconstitutional for the THA to elect a new Deputy Chief Secretary. Until such time that Mr Duke tenders his resignation in accordance with the law, there is no vacancy to prompt and facilitate such an election.”
He said they had been instructed to, “file an application for an administrative order in accordance with Part 56 of the Civil Proceedings Rules of Court to seek a declaration that on a correct interpretation of the law, Mr Duke’s purported resignation is invalid, null and void and of no legal effect and hence, there is no vacant office of Deputy Chief Secretary to be filled.”
“We call upon you to not proceed with the purported election of a new Deputy Chief Secretary at this special sitting of the THA on Monday 19 September 2022 at 10.30 am. We seek an urgent and immediate formal undertaking from you by midnight tonight failing which, we have been instructed to seek an immediate injunction to restrain the THA from doing so.”
The attorney said it would be an exercise in futility and would cause grave embarrassment to the THA if it proceeded to act in such an illegal and unconstitutional manner.
He said, “This will convey the unfortunate impression that the THA is prepared to violate the constitution and the rule of law and ride roughshod over the rights of the electorate that voted the present Assemblymen into office. It would be in the public interest for this issue to be resolved by the court in an expeditious manner.”