FORMER Speaker Barry Sinanan said on Friday that the question of whether a motion to remove President Paula-Mae Weekes from office would make it onto the parliamentary order paper will depend on Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George acting entirely in her own discretion.
Earlier, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she had filed a motion under the Constitution (section 36) to establish a tribunal to investigate the removal of the President from office. For several days Persad-Bissessar has alleged failings by Weekes to pronounce on allegations of political interference in her office by a government official over the selection of an acting Commissioner of Police (CoP) by the Police Service Commission. While Opposition motions generally face an uphill battle in Parliament against the Government's inbuilt majority, they do provide an opportunity for an airing of concerns, with attendant publicity.
The Constitution (section 35) says a president can be removed for wilfully violating the Constitution; bringing her office into "hatred, ridicule or contempt"; behaving in a way to endanger the State's security; or being mentally incapacitated.
The removal process (section 36) entails a motion signed by one-third of elected MPs being proposed in the House of Representatives, the motion being adopted by two-thirds of members of a combined assembly of the House and Senate, a five-judge tribunal investigating the complaint, and two-thirds of the House/Senate assembly voting for her removal.
Newsday asked what decides if such a motion qualifies to be on the House order paper.
Sinanan said, "It must pass the Speaker's list. The Speaker can either approve it or reject it.
"It is totally within the Speaker's discretion."
Newsday pressed to see if there were any guiding principles the Speaker could avail herself of to help her to decide.
Sinanan replied, "No, no, no. The only guidance the Speaker would have is precedent. But I'm not sure in Trinidad and Tobago this has ever happened.
"You'd probably have to look at the Commonwealth with similar standing orders and a similar type of constitution. I don't think there's precedent for it in Trinidad and Tobago. We'll have to look elsewhere, but looking elsewhere it must be compatible with what we have here in terms of constitution and standing orders.
"But as far as I'm aware the Speaker has the absolute right to accept or reject a motion."
Newsday tried but was unable to contact Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.