As was promised in a previous sitting of the House of Assembly Attorney General Baba Aziz presented a legal opinion regarding the rumor that Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Ingrid Moses was going to be contesting the upcoming general elections under the banner of the ruling National Democratic Party.
In his opinion, the Attorney General stated that there were no legal barriers preventing the Speaker from seeking political office and he noted that if it is a case of fear of the Speaker being biased of favoring one political party over the other there are stipulations in the Standing Orders and the Constitution to remedy that occurrence.
The Attorney General stated that the Constitution prescribes the qualifications and disqualifications for elections as a member of the House of Assembly. Therefore, he said “It seems to me that none of the circumstances for disqualifications is engaged in the instance case.”
The AG also listed a number of countries, where he said there is no requirement for the Speaker to resign. Further the AG pointed out that there is a consensus that the Speaker should be impartial. “The Constitution presumes impartiality of the Speaker by enacting section 75. A Speaker who demonstrably favors one party or faction over another would have a very difficult and short career.”
However, the opinion received mixed reactions from the two members of the opposition. As Leader of the Opposition Hon. Fahie boldly stated that the opinion did not clear up general confusion on the matter.
In fact, Hon. Fahie called on the Speaker to confirm her deny whether she is running for office: “I think Madame Speaker given that the House votes for the Speaker based on this same section 69 that you owe it to this Honourable House to simply state because we didn’t need a legal opinion at all. This was a matter of simply stating whether yes you are going to be a candidate on the National Democratic Party ticket in the upcoming elections or no. For the reason being – if it is yes then the House has to reanalyse and reevaluate in terms of the fairness will be sought. If it is no, then the House can put this to rest forever.”
“I think it is owed to this Honourable House which elected the Speaker to know this, because when the Speaker was elected it was not elected knowing it was going to be a candidate. It was elected thinking it was somebody that we know was going to be impartial,” Hon. Fahie said.
Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser out rightly questioned the opinion that was presented by the AG. He declared: “Madame Speaker with all due respect I do not consider the opinion given by the AG requested by you Madame Speaker on a matter pertaining to you to be an independent legal opinion. I believe it is an opinion rendered on your request and naturally that’s what I expected – what he gave…”.
However, before the Opposition Member could venture to finish his thoughts he was stopped by the Speaker who informed him that he had crossed the line. “Hon. Member for the Third you can take your seat, you just in my view crossed a very thin line because what you are doing is imputing improper motives to the Attorney General who continues to advise the House,” the Speaker stated.
Hon. Fraser’s comments seemed to have irked the Speaker who responded stating among other things that the Opposition Member was taking a jab at the credibility of the House.
Hon. Moses in rebuking the Third District Representative referred to the report of her running as ‘rumors’. “I don’t think we are really wanting to bring down the credibility of the House and the standards. You just impute improper motives on the Hon. Attorney General and I cannot believe it. In my view all members are supposed to be Honourable members and I refuse to believe we would want to bring rumors to be confirmed as or put it legally to legitimize rumors, because that’s what you are asking to do and what I would say and the AG mentioned it in his opinion the last line spoke specifically to it,” the Speaker said.
“If there is an issue with impartiality of the Speaker the Standing Orders and the Constitution are clear. In all the seven years I have been here not once has a motion been brought and as a matter of fact members on both sides of the aisle have commended me on multiple occasions for how I have handled the matter – you in particular as well Hon. Member for the Third; and I would go further to say that members on both sides of the House, in addition to members of the public have asked me on multiple occasions to take it to the next step in representational politics including members on both sides of the House,” Hon. Moses announced.
As it relates to her alleged move to politics the Speaker said that she has made no such disclosures. “I haven’t declared anything, have I? But the reason why the declaration was made by the Attorney general is to make the position abundantly clear, so we don’t rely on rumors we rely on facts; we rely on what the legal position is; because we all very well know that there is a move in which you can have the Speaker removed. The same way the Speaker can be appointed she can be removed. When I sit in the chair as Speaker of the House, that is the persona that I take on and one that I have always upheld and will continue to uphold,” Hon. Moses announced.
Further the Speaker said that it is the right of every qualified citizen to run for elected office and to do so when they feel it is right for them to do so. “Serving others is the most important oath a person can take and I have been serving and will continue to serve to the best of my abilities,” she added.