FNM: Gambling Vote ‘Illegal’
The Free National Movement (FNM) alleged yesterday that the proposed gambling referendum of December 3 is an illegal action.
“There is no lawful way for the office of the parliamentary commissioner, his staff or any other agencies of the government to expend public funds and taxpayers’ dollars to conduct an illegal consultative referendum, or any other kind of non-constitutional plebiscite,” the party said in a statement.
“The parliamentary commissioner is a creature of statute. He only has lawful authority to perform the duties specifically given to him under the statute law which created his office, or any other statute law passed by Parliament, which specifically authorizes him to spend public money, to conduct an election.
“The parliamentary commissioner only has implied or implicit authority to do anything necessary to facilitate the effective performance of his legal duties (i.e. the power to pay a stipend to election officials and clerks for election day, the power to buy food and water for officials in the polls etc.).”
The party noted that under the Constitutional Referendum Act the parliamentary commissioner is authorized by section 4 of the act to conduct any constitutional referendum as if it were an election of members to the House of Assembly under the terms and conditions of the Parliamentary Elections Act.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has announced that the upcoming referendum will deal with one question and that is whether voters support the legalization and regularization of web shops.
The FNM said, “The PLP’s web shop referendum does not meet the necessary legal criteria since there is no bill passed by Parliament which seeks to amend the constitution.”
The party noted that the parliamentary commissioner also is authorized to conduct local government elections by virtue of the provisions of section 17 (2) of the Local Government Act.
“Other than for the purposes of elections to the House of Assembly, the holding of a constitutional referendum or the conduct of local government elections, the parliamentary commissioner has no lawful power to conduct any election,” the FNM’s statement said.
“The astonishing incompetence of the PLP is that matters should or could have been allowed to unravel to such a degree that the prime minister could set and publicly announce the date for the holding of an illegal referendum.”
The FNM asked where Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson and Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez were during this whole process.
“In a Cabinet which is stacked to the gills with learned and experienced attorneys at law, including the prime minister and deputy prime minister; the ministers of transport, local government, education, housing and national insurance, and so on, how could this imbroglio have happened?” the FNM asked.
“Did some of those who must have known better keep silent in order to embarrass and subvert their leader?”
The opposition party also accused the prime minister of trying to “weasel out of the conundrum” by now declaring that the government is having an opinion poll and not a referendum.
Earlier in the week, Christie told reporters he was awaiting legal advice on that point.
“ . . .Because there is nothing to do with amending the constitution; this is not a constitutional referendum,” he said. “I’m advised legally that all of the prerequisites that go into organizing a constitutional referendum do not apply, and so when I get the legal opinion I will publish it so people will see that all this is, is a government seeking an indication of the opinion of people.”
The FNM is now asking who will conduct and also ensure the integrity of such a poll.
The party accused the government of “negligence and incompetence” in its handling of the referendum issue.
“The government should stop, review and cancel this march of folly, and find another lawful and legal way to resume its preferred role of being a latter day Pontius Pilate, by effectively washing their collective hands of a divisive decision,” the FNM said.
By Candia Dames
Guardian News Editor