THE SIX PDP assemblymen have started legal action against the Clerk of the Tobago House of Assembly for allegedly failing to invoke and correctly apply the law and standing orders to select a presiding officer.
They want the clerk to reconvene the 12 assemblymen in three days so that the election of the presiding officer can be put to the vote, and, if that fails to produce a positive outcome, to draw lots in keeping with THA and the House of Representatives’ standing orders.
Attorney Lionel Luckhoo, represents the PDP assemblymen, has given the clerk until Wednesday by 4 pm to respond to the pre-action protocol letter he sent on Friday.
He described the stalemate as an “obvious constitutional crisis” and his clients hope that they will not have to resort to litigation.
The People’s National Movement (PNM) and PDP each won six seats in the January 25 THA election.
In addition to the proposals for the reconvening of the assembly and drawing of lots, Luckhoo set out the facts which have led to this quagmire, from the dissolution of the assembly in November to the six-six tie in the elections to the final meeting to elect a new presiding officer on February 1.
He also set out the legal framework behind the proposal.
The 12 assemblymen have been unable to nominate a presiding officer.
Last month, the PDP recommended drawing lots in accordance with Section 92(1) of the THA’s Standing Orders, but the PNM rejected this.
Luckhoo wrote, “The immediate consequences of a failure to elect a presiding officer are clear from Sections 8-11 of the THA Act. Moreover, the current impasse is unlawfully frustrating the democratic chose of Tobago’s electors.
“It is also frustrating the constitutionally ordained requirement for the assembly to exercise its prescribed powers and functions and to appoint a presiding officer (section 141A of the Constitution).”
The House of Representatives is meeting to debate the THA (Amendment) Bill 2021, which proposes a legislative solution to the stalemate. The Prime Minister tabled the legislation in Parliament on February 12, recognising that the situation amounted to a constitutional crisis.
However, there has been disagreement with the plan to resolve the issue in Parliament. On Thursday, the Tobago Division of the Chamber of Industry & Commerce said Friday’s parliamentary debate should not move forward, suggesting instead Tobagonians should decide after dialogue between the 12 assemblymen.
The chamber said the talks should surround the establishment of a new “national unity” government with a shared executive council, and a return to the polls in 2023.