Michael rejects suspension from Parliament and demands confirmation he will not be excluded – or else he will sue

Asot Michael, member of Parliament for St. Peter, is threatening Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watt with legal action over his suspension from Parliament, last Thursday, May 18.

Michael was ejected after the Speaker accused him of cross-talk while another Member was on the floor, and, very shortly after, was “suspended” for three sittings after he lashed out verbally at Sir Gerald, accusing him of political bias.

By way of a letter to Watt, dated May 22, and through attorney Hugh Marshall, Jr., Michael notes that it was at the Speaker’s prompting – and purporting to act pursuant to Standing Orders (SO)that were made under Section 57 of the Constitution – that he was suspended.

Opposition Members have already noted that the Speaker, himself, moved the motion for the suspension, rather than properly having it come from the floor.   

Now, Michael’s attorney says that the audio and visual recordings of the sitting were reviewed, and he is satisfied that Michael’s purported suspension was unlawful.

Interestingly, among the four reasons cited for Marshall’s conclusion is that the House has no power to make Standing Orders providing for the suspension of a member, and, accordingly, SO 50(7) is unconstitutional, null and void.

It is also the attorney’s contention that, even if the House has the power to make rules providing for such a suspension, it has no power to make rules providing for the suspension of a member for three or more sittings.  Therefore, he argues that SO 50(8) is also unconstitutional, null and void.

He adds that the suspension was imposed for the improper purpose of punishing the MP, and it was not reasonably required for the regulation of the affairs and/or proceedings of the House.

Further, Marshall says the suspension was not effected in accordance with the mandatory procedural steps specified by SO 50(7), and he concludes that Michael’s purported suspension was a nullity. 

Last Thursday, after his directive that the sergeant-at-arms remove the MP was withdrawn, the Speaker “named” Michael for his infraction.  However, no Member responded.  He then proceeded to suggest that Michael be suspended and noted that the penalty for a first offence was suspension for three sittings. 

The attorney is contending that at no time did any Member move the motion for suspension, as required by SO 50 (7).  Nor was the Speaker’s supposed motion seconded.  Rather, it was solely at the Speaker’s insistence, and without a motion, that the vote was held, and Michael purportedly suspended. 

Therefore, Marshall reasons, the suspension was undone by reason of this serious procedural flaw. 

It is Marshall’s view that the primary purpose of SO 50 is to regulate parliamentary procedure and to ensure the orderly conduct of House proceedings.  He claims that “the House had no power to prescribe any form of punishment for disrespecting the Speaker, nor could it lawfully use the SO’s for that purpose.”

And, even assuming that SO 50(7) is valid, Marshall’s letter says he is not satisfied that the naming of Michael, pursuant to that provision, was warranted in all the circumstances. 

As a result, the MP is requesting that the Speaker confirm, in writing, that no steps to exclude him, or cause him to be excluded, from the next, or any subsequent, sitting of the House will be taken.

Michael has indicated that unless written confirmation is received by the close of business on Thursday, May 25, he will be compelled to commence legal proceedings to protect his constitutional rights.