My attention was drawn to a story appearing on page 9 of your Monday, February 29, 2016 edition under the caption: “Nandlall plans to challenge ‘even votes’ bill passage”, and I wish to address a few matters in response.Firstly, the editorial comment contained in the story that “had a division been called for by the opposition where each vote would have had to be registered, the bill, which dealt with tax charges, would have failed as it required a majority” is surprising and wholly misinformed and erroneous.
The public needs to be reminded that because of the uniqueness of the 10th Parliament (and now the 11th with a razor-thin majority), a system was devised by the Speaker that introduced the ringing of a bell to alert members absent from the Chamber, but within the precincts of Parliament Buildings, that a division had been called and they were required within one (1) minute to enter the Chamber, and take their seats. Hon. Member, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, was in the Members’ Lounge and would have responded immediately if the division was called for.
Therefore there was no likelihood whatsoever of the bill being defeated.
Secondly, it is a well established Commonwealth parliamentary practice for the vote to be taken by an audible expression of “yea” or “nay” and for the presiding officer, the Speaker, to determine the vote by whether the “yeas” or “nays” were louder in their support of the measure before the House. On the evening of February 26, 2016, the Honourable Speaker made such a determination based on the response, and it was for the Opposition to exercise its right to challenge that determination at the time, and not after. Erskine May on Parliamentary Practice is quite clear that a decision of the House is like the “judgment of the Court” and cannot be reversed or rescinded; except by a specific motion brought to do so.
The parliamentary opposition has every right to approach the High Court if it wishes to, but the challenge will fail.
I am grateful for the opportunity of clarifying what the established practice on these matters is so that the populace will not be misled.
Hon. Raphael G. C. Trotman, M.P.
Minister of Natural Resources