At the twelfth sitting of parliament on Tuesday 17th August 2021, Hon. Jeremiah Norbert, the parliamentary representative for Micoud North, was appointed Deputy Speaker of the Saint Lucia House of Assembly. The appointment of a Deputy Speaker was normal practice until July 2016 when the Allen Chastanet Administration had disregarded and, at the very least, had abused the spirit of the constitution by allowing the position to remain vacant for five years.
At the House of Assembly’s first sitting of parliament following the United Workers Party’s victory at the polls in June 2016, Hon Sarah Flood- Beaubrun, the then member of parliament for Castries Central was elected Deputy Speaker. She soon after resigned from the position of Deputy Speaker to accept a ministerial appointment from the then Prime Minister Allen Chastanet. A vacancy was therefore created which never got filled during the term of the last administration.
According to the Saint Lucia Constitution the role of Deputy Speaker can only be held by an elected member who does not hold a ministerial position. At the first sitting of parliament following a general election, the Saint Lucia Constitution mandates the appointment of a Deputy Speaker, with the language “the house shall appoint a Deputy Speaker.” It was for this reason that Sarah Flood Beaubrun was chosen as Deputy Speaker because all other elected members on the government side had been appointed ministers of government.
Flood-Beaubrun’s less than desirable position of Deputy Speaker was short lived at the expense of Saint Lucian taxpayers, a ministerial salary being significantly higher than that of Deputy Speaker, and the spirit of the constitution, which requires a vacancy of the Deputy Speaker be “filled as soon as convenient” was abused.
This obvious disregard for the Saint Lucia Constitution had signaled a style of government where expedience and self-interest took precedence over good governance and the rule of Law.
In appointing a Deputy Speaker, the new administration headed by Prime Minister Philip J Pierre has signaled an auspicious start in the governance of the country. In a Press Release of 18th August 2021, from the Office of The Prime Minister, the new government chose to remind the public of the constitutional abuse over the last five years and its intention to govern differently.