24 September, 2010
Governor's Press Release
The Governor's press release says that the Chief Minister instructed him to remove the portfolios of Health and Social Development from the Hon Edison Baird and transfer them to the Hon Jerome Roberts. He says that he refused to carry out the Chief Minister's instructions because in his view they amounted to a negation of democracy. He says he considers that would amount to two people, the Governor and Chief Minister, effectively overturning the will of the people as expressed just seven months previously. The Governor's view is that the people had elected four members of the AUM to form a Government, and three other members to form the Opposition.
I have to admit that I have difficulty understanding this. My understanding of the Constitution is that the Chief Minister can tell the Governor which elected member of the House should be a Minister, and which one should not. No other Minister, nor the public, has any say in who is to be appointed a Minister. The people do not elect either a government or an opposition. The people elect only their representatives. Every representative is free either to join the government or to join the opposition. He is also free to change his mind and to cross the floor of the House.
The Governor is normally obliged to appoint as Minister whomsoever the Chief Minister tells him to appoint. The Governor has no say in who is or is not to be appointed a Minister.
Contrary to what the Governor wrote, it is not a negation of democracy for the Chief Minister to tell the Governor to appoint a coalition member of the government to be a Minister. If it were so, then the coalition Conservative Lib/Lab government in Britain must similarly be a negation of democracy, which is not correct.
If the Governor's recollection of what the Chief Minister told him is accurate, then what was improper about it was for the Chief Minister to have instructed the Governor to appoint a fifth minister. The Constitution is clear. The Governor, instructed by the Chief Minister, is only permitted to appoint four Ministers, plus a Parliamentary Secretary. There are already four Ministers and a Parliamentary Secretary appointed. It can be described as illegal under the Constitution for the Chief Minister to have requested him to appoint a fifth minister.
In any event, my understanding is that the Chief Minister did not instruct the Governor to appoint the Hon Jerome Roberts as a Minister. What the Chief Minister did was to instruct the Governor to transfer the portfolios in question to him, the Chief Minister. He seems to have indicated to the Governor that he would be asking the Hon Jerome Roberts to help him to manage those portfolios. This may have been irregular, but it would not have been in breach of the Constitution.
I cannot see anything in the law to fault the Chief Minister.
I don't understand the Governor's reaction.