Eight members of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) have petitioned Presiding Officer Vanessa Cutting-Thomas to call a special sitting of the THA this Friday.
At that sitting they intend to move a motion of no confidence in Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, who lost the election for head of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council to Tracy Davidson-Celestine.
There are ten PNM Assembly members. The only two who did not sign the petition are Charles and Marslyn Merville Jack.
All the other Assembly members who signed are Joel Jack, Ancil Dennis, Marisha Osmond, Jomo Pitt, Shomari Hector, Hayden Spencer, Clarence Jacob and Sheldon Cunningham.
The other two members on the 12-member THA are Minority Members Watson Duke and Farley Augustine, who are members of the Progressive Democratic Party.
“They (the eight Assembly members) intend to force him to go (as Chief Secretary),” a source said on Saturday.
It is not certain whether the party leadership has been consulted.
Port of Spain party officials have stressed that the Tobago arm of the PNM has complete autonomy and whatever actions are to be taken with respect to the THA will be decided by Tobago.
Tobago PNM has autonomy
Traditionally the political leader of the Tobago Island Council is Chief Secretary of the THA if the PNM holds the majority or Minority Leader if the PNM is in the opposition.
Tracy Davidson-Celestine cannot become the Chief Secretary, however, because under the THA Act the Chief Secretary must be an elected member.
Davidson-Celestine, who is currently not even a member of the THA, can however become a nominated member— a councillor, if the Chief Secretary selects her for this post.
Sources said the Assembly members would like to have Joel Jack, Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance and the Economy, appointed as Chief Secretary until next year’s THA election. Asked if one moves a motion of no-confidence in the Chief Secretary, whether the whole administration falls in the same way that the government falls if a motion of no confidence is successfully passed against the Prime Minister, the source said the legal opinion was that the two situations were constitutionally different.
The legal opinion is that, according to the THA Act, the Assembly members cannot secure the removal of the Chief Secretary by writing to the President requesting that she exercises her powers to have the Chief Secretary removed. The Act (Section 8) states that upon the election the Assembly members shall elect from among their number, the Chief Secretary and the Deputy Chief Secretary, with the President administering the oath.
Section 36 of the Act provides that the Chief Secretary shall vacate his office — 1) where for any reason other than a dissolution of the Assembly, he ceases to be a member or b) immediately before the administering of the oath under Section 8 (the election of the Chief Secretary by the other members of the Assembly).
However Section 35 of the Act provides that: “Where the Assemblymen pass a resolution declaring that they have no confidence in the Chief Secretary or the Deputy Chief Secretary and the Chief Secretary or Deputy Chief Secretary, as the case may be, does not within two days of the passing of such a resolution resign, the President shall revoke the appointment of the Chief Secretary or the Deputy Chief Secretary, as the case may be.”
Therefore the Chief Secretary may be removed in the circumstances provided in Section 35, the opinion found.
Davidson-Celestine, the legal opinion by Kerwyn Garcia pointed out, would have to be an Assembly member within the meaning of the Act (ie, elected Assembly member) before she could become Chief Secretary.
Charles: Jack must resign
Meanwhile, Charles yesterday called on Jack, the THA Deputy Chief Secretary, to resign.
The defeated political leader of the PNM Tobago Council told i95.5FM that Jack challenged him at the internal elections for the leadership position and lost and, as a result, he believes Jack should resign.
Charles also repeated he will not resign as chief secretary.
Davidson-Celestine has called on Charles to resign following his loss in the run-off vote two Sundays ago.
Davidson-Celestine received 3,150 votes to Charles’ 2,042.