Gumbs: Annulment of decree ‘difficult’

PHILIPSBURG–The National Decree to dissolve Parliament and hold snap elections on February 9, 2016, has become law with its publication in the National Gazette and would be “very difficult” if not “impossible” to be retracted by the Coalition of Eight supported incoming Council of Ministers, says Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs.

Coalition of Eight member Parliamentarian Sarah Wescot-Williams said earlier this week that she sees “sufficient reasons” to annul the decree signed by Gumbs and co-signed by Governor Eugene Holiday on October 28. She said the decree was formed on an incorrect premise thus can be annulled.

Asked about the annulment possibility at the Council of Ministers’ Press Briefing on Wednesday, Gumbs said, “I think it is very difficult, impossible, for anybody, any government, whether this one or the one that is coming in, to just stand up and take away the right of the people to go and vote on February 9. I think that will be very, very unconstitutional and I do not see how that is possible.”

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The three judges who advised the Governor on the constitutional impasse that started with a motion of no confidence against the Gumbs Cabinet on September 30, are of the opinion that slight changes can be made to the decree. Whether those slight changes cover the election date, it is not clear.

Other legal minds, according to Gumbs, say the decree cannot be withdrawn by an incoming government, “because it will take away from the substance of Article 59 of the Constitution.” That article gives the Cabinet the independent right to issue a decree calling for the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of snap elections.

“The process is law now. The voting public has gotten a right for the ninth of February,” Gumbs said, adding that if the date is changed it will “open Pandora’s Box” of court cases against Government for trying to take away a democratic right from the people of the country.

A new decree to annul the present one “would require the cooperation of the Governor,” said Gumbs.

Justice Minister Dennis Richardson said moving the election date “could lead to a lot of problems” now and in the future.

The Cabinet members made their positions “available in good faith” and questioned what would happen if the Cabinet members retract their registration and stay on until elections are held, Richardson said. He added that it was not required for the Cabinet to resign before elections are held, but the resignations were submitted to the Governor in good faith.

If the date is changed, a future cabinet can, at the rumour of a government change, use Article 59 to dissolve Parliament and call snap elections, but remain sitting until elections are held to avoid a date change, he said.

“We kept to our promise. I hope the incoming government will respect the decision that had been taken rightful and legally so,” said Richardson.

Speaking about “ship-jumping” by Members of Parliament (MPs) as the root cause of government instability, Gumbs said electoral reform alone will not solve the problem. “You can bring all the reform, but you need representatives in Parliament with integrity, heart for country and a desire to seek compromise,” he said.

Source: The Daily Herald Gumbs: Annulment of decree ‘difficult’

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