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St Lucia uncertain over resignation and replacement of deputy speaker

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – The atmosphere of the deputy speaker in the Parliament of Saint Lucia continues to be unprecedented, yet again, with the resignation of the deputy speaker.

Jeremiah Norbert, member of parliament for Micoud North was appointed to serve as deputy speaker to the House of Assembly, on Tuesday, August 17, 2021, a condition of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, that comes after five years of the position being vacant, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) announced Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

A media note from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), February 27, 2024, reads in full:

“Jeremiah Norbert has resigned as deputy speaker of the House of Assembly effective February 27,  2024. Further updates will be provided by Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre on his return to Saint Lucia.”

Prime Minister Pierre is attending CARICOM #46HCG in Guyana and is scheduled to return to Saint Lucia on the morning of February 28, 2024.

Deputy Speaker Jeremiah Norbert’s resignation on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, has set off another legislative argument and interpretation of the Laws of Saint Lucia; and likewise set off a race to replace him, hitherto, the Speaker of the House of Assembly has been unavailable for two House sittings.

Section 36-(2) […] A person shall vacate the office of deputy speaker (a) if he/she ceases to be a member of the House; (b) if he/she becomes a member of the Cabinet or a Parliamentary Secretary; or (c) if he/she is to be the Speaker. [3&4]

In February 2024, the article ‘St Lucia to welcome new cabinet minister’ stated that: “On account of the government of Saint Lucia press release, Monday, February 19, 2024, advising that the minister for home affairs, Dr Virginia Albert-Poyotte, experienced a medical emergency, and that “Jeremiah Norbert, (MP for Micoud North) will adopt her ministerial responsibilities until further notice,” came further clarification from the deputy speaker of the House of Assembly [Jeremiah Norbert] presiding in parliament February 20, 2024, advised that “I have not been sworn-in as a minister. I do not hold any ministerial portfolio. I am still the deputy speaker of this house and I operate as the deputy speaker of this house.”

The last administration addressed the business of the House of Assembly quite dramatically without a deputy speaker.

In his Throne Speech, His Excellency Errol Charles, deputy to the Governor General [then-2021] reiterated this administration’s commitment to serving the people of Saint Lucia.

“In the spirit of change, my government intends to uphold the Constitution of Saint Lucia, both in words and deeds. And so, out of respect for the people and the Constitution of Saint Lucia, which seeks to provide order and good governance in the management of our country’s affairs, the intended structures of the parliament will be observed. Provision has, therefore, been made to ensure that the position of a deputy speaker for the House of Assembly is occupied,” he said.

On March 7, 2023, legislators, approved a Bill to amend the Constitution, in order to ensure the post of deputy speaker is compulsorily occupied and any vacancy thereafter is filled.

In tabling the motion, Prime Minister Pierre noted that the Bill was intended to shield the Constitution from abuse and uphold its integrity.

“This constitutional amendment is to end the violation of Article 36 of the constitution that has taken place for more than five years in this honourable house,” declared PM Pierre, at [the] House sitting [on 7 March]. […] Consequently, as per the amendment, the deputy speaker may be elected from either the members of the House who are not members of [the cabinet] or parliamentary secretaries or among persons who are not members of the House. […]

Opposition leader Allen Chastanet, in his rebuttal, contended that it was the duty of parliament to elect a deputy speaker and that his administration, during their stint of office (2016 to 2021) – were under no obligation to elect an MP to that post. Chastanet continued: “Who is responsible for electing a deputy speaker? The entity for electing a deputy speaker – is – parliament.” To substantiate this point, he argued, “If all members of the house on the government side are put into Cabinet or are parliamentary secretaries, it goes that it must come from the opposition.”

The return of Prime Minister Pierre on Wednesday is very much anticipated. (a) Concerning the people and the laws that govern Saint Lucia, the appointment of a new deputy speaker to the House of Assembly; (b) as implied February 19, 2024, Saint Lucia will welcome a new cabinet minister, and (C), an update on Dr Virginia Albert-Poyotte, medical emergency.



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