The New Democratic Party (NDP) reiterates its call for the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Senator Ashelle Morgan (Ms), to stepdown or be suspended from that position, pending the outcome of investigation into allegations that were made against her.
It has been five weeks since the alleged brutal attack by Senator and Deputy Speaker Ms. Ashelle Morgan, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Mr. Karim Nelson, and another male person upon Mr. Cornelius John, a senior citizen, on the night of 13th April, 2021 while he was in the sanctity of his home.
We repeat our call on Commissioner of Police Mr. Colin John and Director of Public Prosecutions Ms Sejilla McDowall to conduct an impartial, transparent investigation, and to bring charges against the alleged perpetrators of this attack based on the evidence. If, as it is alleged, Mr. Cornelius John committed any offence; he too should be investigated and charged as warranted.
This serious matter must not be made a political issue. The alleged assailants must be brought to justice. It cannot be the proper functioning of the criminal justice system, especially the police, that five weeks after the shooting no one has been detained and no one has been charged. The reported comments by Commissioner of Police Mr. Colin John, in the Searchlight newspaper, about cross complaints being made implies that charges are forthcoming. Is there a credible reason for delay?
During the meeting of the House of Assembly on Tuesday May 11, 2021, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. the Honourable Godwin Friday, was suspended by the Speaker Ms Rochelle Forde after he objected to the participation of Senator Ashelle Morgan in the proceedings of the House.
Dr. Friday sought and received permission from the Speaker under her general authority to regulate the conduct of business in the House, to address the matter. He informed the Speaker that Senator Morgan, who is a government Senator and Deputy Speaker of the House, was under police investigation in connection with a shooting incident in which it was alleged that she and two other persons were assailants.
Dr. Friday submitted that Senator Morgan should not continue to be in the House while the serious allegation against her was under investigation by the police (as has been confirmed publicly by the Commissioner of Police). He sought to have the Senator withdraw or be suspended from the House until the criminal investigation was complete. He also informed the Speaker that he had written to the Governor General about the matter, and he presented a copy of the letter to the Speaker.
Before he could complete his remarks, the Speaker ordered Dr. Friday to discontinue his speech and to sit, so that the House could continue as usual.
Dr. Friday continued with his speech and restated his concerns about the Senator’s presence in the House. He had the support of all the members of the Opposition. The Speaker then ordered that Dr. Friday be suspended from the House for the remainder of the meeting. No further action was taken by the Speaker in relation to Senator Morgan.
All members of the Opposition supported Dr. Friday in the actions he took in the House. Member for Central Kingstown, Major the Honourable St. Clair Leacock, urged the Speaker to reconsider her decision to suspend Dr. Friday. However, the Speaker did not change her decision. Instead, police officers, including from SSU and RRU, were summoned to the House to remove Dr. Friday. Dr. Friday and the other members of the Opposition then left the House.
The New Democratic Party condemns the decision taken by the Speaker of the House to suspend the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Friday, and the failure of the House to address the serious matter of the continued presence of Senator Morgan in the House. The NDP calls on Senator Morgan to stepdown or be suspended from the position of Deputy Speaker and Senator pending the outcome of the investigation.
Compare what took place in the parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to what took place in the parliament in Jamaica last month when an elected member of parliament, George Wright, was granted leave from the House of Representatives because of an allegation that was made against him. The following was reported in LOOP News Jamaica:
“The embattled Member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland, George Wright has proceeded on a two-month paid leave of absence from the House of Representatives.
The leave period ends June 21 and if Wright, a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lawmaker, returns to the House in June, he will sit as an independent Member of Parliament. This, after he was forced to withdraw from the JLP’s parliamentary caucus, following an incident of domestic violence in which he is believed to have physically assaulted his common-law wife.
While Wright has not admitted to any wrongdoing, he is widely believed to be the man seen in a viral video inflicting a merciless beating on Singh earlier this month. She was beaten with both fists and a stool and had to seek medical attention. Both Singh and Wright have refused to press charges, forcing the police to drop their probe into the incident.
However, there have been howling calls for his resignation from civil and private sector groups as well as the parliamentary Opposition.
The Speaker said Wright had been very ‘open and clear’ regarding his need to proceed on leave from the legislature and noted that it was not unusual for members to request leave for reasons beyond their control, or which are unavoidable.”
We once again call on Commissioner of Police Mr. Colin John and Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Sejilla McDowall to conduct an impartial, transparent investigation and to bring charges against the alleged perpetrators of this attack based on the evidence.