Attorney: Nine independent senators should resign
ATTORNEY Martin George said on Tuesday the nine independent senators appointed by former president Paula-Mae Weekes should resign in order to allow her successor Christine Kangaloo to select a new group of independent senators, if she so desires.
Former Senate president Christine Kangaloo was inaugurated as TT's seventh President on Monday.
She was elected by the Electoral College by a vote of 48-22 on January 20. The college comprises all members of the House of Representatives and Senate, including the Speaker and the Senate President.
For the time being, it appears the current nine independent senators will remain in place. There is no rule making it mandatory for them to resign as a new President assumes office.
Newsday reached out to the independents and got the views of three of the nine: Paul Richards, Anthony Vieira and Dr Maria Dillon-Remy.
Asked about the future of members of the current independent bench now that Kangaloo is President, Richards said, "There is no requirement for resignation. In a general sense, parliamentarians are appointed for a parliamentary session."
During that session, he continued, a sitting President "can appoint independent senators according to the Constitution or replace independent senators as their will dictates."
He recalled that when Weekes became president in 2018, the only independent senator to resign was Dhanayshar Mahabir and, "That was his choice at the time."
Vieira said, "According to parliamentary convention, we (independent senators) are not required to resign with the change in President. We continue to serve at the President's pleasure."He said it was entirely within Kangaloo's discretion "as to whether she wants us to continue as independents."
Dr Dillon-Remy told Newsday, "I have been advised by staff of the Parliament that I am not required to resign."
She added, "Our new President has the prerogative to revoke my appointment and I am prepared for this."
Until that time, however, Dillon-Remy said she will continue to serve as an independent senator. She said she could not speak for her fellow independents.
Dillion-Remy also said it was impractical for all independent senators to resign in the middle of a parliamentary session. "That would cause confusion in the parliamentary functioning."
She pointed out that some independent senators sit on parliamentary select and joint select committees and in the case of the latter, some are even chaired by independent senators.
Contacted for comment, George was in full disagreement.
"We in Trinidad and Tobago are supposed to be following the Westminster model on systems and governance and norms."
Under those circumstances, he continued, it is incumbent upon the independent senators who were appointed by Weekes to do the honourable thing and resign.
George said these senators should do so and "leave it up to the new President to determine whether she wants to re-appoint them or appoint her own people as independent senators.
"In those circumstances, I think we should expect these senators would follow that time-honoured tradition and tender their resignations in an act of nobility so as to allow the new President to make her own choices."
George said Kangaloo could very well choose to re-appoint some or all of the current independents.
He reiterated this should be Kangaloo's decision and not one that is foisted on her by anyone clinging on to the post and refusing to resign.
Parliament officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "It is the sole purview of the incoming President to decide if to make any changes to the independent bench."
They said Section 40 of the Constitution, outlines the powers of the President with respect to the appointment of senators.
Dr Maria Dillon-Remy
Dr Varma Deyalsingh
What the Constitution says:
SECTION 40 of the Constitution says:
(1) The Senate shall consist of 31 members...who shall be appointed by the President in accordance with this section.
40 (2) Of the 31 Senators –
(a) Sixteen (government) shall be appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of thePrime Minister;
(b) Six (opposition) shall be appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and;
(c) Nine shall be appointed by the President in his discretion from outstanding persons from
economic or social or community organisations and other major fields of endeavour.
"Attorney: Nine independent senators should resign"