Tonight brings the news that the newly appointed Senator and Minister for Community & Sports, Mr. Commissiong has left the position. It was noted previously that his appointment was controversial, and the dismay over his appointment was showing no sign of abating.
Others are – and will – comment more specifically concerning him elsewhere; my focus here is on what this means for the Cabinet and the Senate. I am interested in the aspects of the role ‘the people’ and social movements will play in our democracy, being as they led the charge on this issue. With a decimated Opposition OBA and a dominant Governing PLP, one imagines social movements and labour unions will play an important role over the next few years.
First however, in Mr. Commissiong’s resignation letter, he cites Section 106 of the Constitution. For those unfamiliar with the Constitution, this sections reads as follows:
1. Save as otherwise provided in sections 31(1) and 32(2) of this Constitution, any person who is appointed to or to act in any office established by this Constitution may resign from that office by writing under his hand addressed to the person by whom he was appointed.
2. The resignation of any person from any such office (including any seat in either House) by writing under his hand addressed in accordance with this Constitution to any other person shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by that other person.
The Constitution also specifies that at least one of the Cabinet Ministers (and not more than two) must come from the Senate; and that the Government must appoint five senators. Mr. Commissiong’s removal thus means that (i) a new Senator must be appointed by the Premier; and (ii) a new Minister must be appointed from the Senate.
It is important to note that the new Senator to be appointed does not necessarily have to also be the new Minister. This could mean – hypothetically – that due to the particular issues involved in the Commissiong case, that the Premier could reappoint Ms. Lovitta Foggo back to her Ministry, and remove a Ministry from someone else and hand it to one of the Senators. I’ve heard someone on social media suggest just this, with Senator Owen Darrell proposed in the same conversation as a possible Minister for the Cabinet, for example. Of course, any of the other three Senators could also be considered for a Ministry.
It is likely the Premier will be wanting to chose someone who has some previous experience in the House or the Senate. And if that person also has experience as a Minister, all the better. It may be that the Premier only needs an experienced hand in this role for a short period, say six months. That will give the new Senators time to get experience, and allow the Premier to consider if his new Cabinet needs a shuffle or not.
Obvious candidates for the Senate seat would be former MP Michael Scott and former Senator Davida Morris.
As a former Senator, Senate Leader and former Minister, he certainly has the credentials and experience for the role, and, while he did decide to retire, one imagines he might be willing to step into the role, even if for a short period.
Ms. Morris is a former Senator and was a candidate in the last election, as well as being the Secretary General of the PLP. With an eye for addressing criticisms of gender imbalances in politics, she is certainly a possibility.
Of course there are other former PLP MPs, Senators and Ministers that the Premier may consider. Former Premiers Jennifer Smith and Paula Cox, former Ministers Renee Webb and Neletha Butterfield, as well as a host of other former Senators, as well as other members of the PLP Executive, are all possible names to consider.
Ultimately, the above names are pure speculation, albeit with a degree of educated guessing to them.
It is not clear from the Premier’s letter when the new Senator and Minister are to be appointed; however the Premier previously noted that he is convening the first Cabinet meeting of the new Government for this Tuesday, October 13th, so it is quite possible that the appointments will come on Monday afternoon.