Roseau, Dominica – March 20, 2008……. High Court Judge Davidson Baptiste has ruled in favour of the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Sergeant at Arms and the Attorney General in a motion brought by six Opposition parliamentarians after they had been escorted out of Parliament on January 8, 2007 following a period of disorder in the House arising out of her decision to alter two of their questions on the Order Paper.
In a twenty-eight (28) page judgement Justice Davidson Baptiste stated among other things:
“The Speaker acted within her jurisdiction and did not contravene any of the provisions of the Constitution when she altered the questions proposed by the Claimants in Standing Order 23(2) (b). The Speaker also acted within her jurisdiction when she refused the supplementary question proposed by Mr. Williams. In light of the prevailing disorder, obstruction and disruption in the House, the Speaker acted within her jurisdiction and did not contravene any of the provisions of the Constitution when she named the Claimants and asked the Attorney General to move that they be suspended in accordance with Standing Order 50(3)(a).
“In view of the prevailing disorder and obstruction or disruption in the House, and the Claimants refusal to withdraw, the right of the House to suspend any member for disorderly conduct or obstruction or disrupting the business of the House was lawful.”
After having refused to withdraw from Parliament following a ruling by the Speaker and a motion by the Attorney General, Opposition MPs, Nicholls Esprit, Edison James, Earl Williams, Ron Green, Norris Charles and Claudius Sanford were escorted out of Parliament by the Sergeant At Arms after the House had been suspended twice because of disorder and disruption to the proceedings of the House by the behaviour of the Opposition MPs.
On the matter of the Speaker’s decision to alter the questions of the said parliamentarians, Justice Davidson Baptiste said:
“There is no unfettered right to ask questions in the House. Questions are subject to the provisions of these “Standing Orders”. Questions may be put to ministers related to public affairs for which they are officially responsible (Standing Order 21).
“The right to ask a question is subject to the general rules stated in Standing Order 23(1) and the Speaker shall be the sole judge of the interpretation of the general rules. The proper object of a question is to obtain information on a question of fact within the official responsibility of the minister to whom it is addressed, or to ask for official action (Standing Order 23(1)(a). No question shall be based upon a newspaper report or upon an official publication (Standing Order 23(1)(c).”
On the matter of the withdrawal of the six MPs, Justice Davidson Baptiste said:
“It is indubitable that the Speaker has authority and jurisdiction to maintain order in the House. That is reflected in Standing Orders 49 and 50. Further the House may suspend its members for disorder and for disrupting the business of the House. Looking at the affidavit evidence of the defendants and the unedited transcripts it is difficult to find fault with the conclusion that the Claimants were acting in a disorderly manner and were interfering with and obstructing the proceedings of the House………”
Meanwhile High Court Judge Davidson Baptiste has ordered the six opposition MPs to pay costs totalling $204,000 to the Speaker of the House, the Attorney General and the Sergeant at Arms.