THE SPEAKER IS SUBJECT TO THE CONSTITUTION

by NEMA YALO

The Speaker may feel like and act like he is the god of the House, but he is subject to the Constitution. Whilst there is express provision to elect the Speaker of Parliament provided under the Standing Orders of Parliament, there is no provision for his/her removal by Parliament in the manner attempted by the Opposition on Tuesday, 28 May 2019. Or at least that is his argument.

That lack does not, however, confer on the Speaker extraordinary prerogative not founded on the law to refuse to entertain a motion of Parliament to vote him/her out of office as the Speaker.

If the Speaker had read the Constitution or sought proper counsel, he would have found that the law is not silent.
Section 111 of the Constitution confers an unfettered right on every MP to introduce a petition, question, resolution or motion which shall be dealt with as provided under the Standing orders. But if the Standing Orders are silent on how the Parliament deals with such, petition, bill, motion etc, it does not follow that such a motion, petition, bill etc should not be introduced. To accept that proposition as the Speaker did with the Opposition's motion is to place a restriction on the proponent's rights granted by Section 111.

Section 114 of the Constitution dictates that unless restricted or prevented by "a Constitutional law or the Standing orders,.. all questions before a meeting of the Parliament shall be decided in accordance with the majority of votes if the members present and voting". A motion to remove the Speaker is not restricted or prohibited by any law. The silence cannot be interpreted to mean a restriction of such a motion. S.114 is the answer. So reading together sections 111 and 114 of the Constitution, the law is not silent as regards the removal of the Speaker by Parliament which put him in the same chair. The Constitution supersedes the Standing orders.

The Speaker may be the god of the house but he is not above the Constitution. He is certainly at the mercy and the prerogative of the Parliament.

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