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Nov 22, 2016

Will Exiled Julius Espat Be Vindicated for Next House Meeting?

Julius Espat

Attorneys for Cayo Representative Julius Espat and House Speaker Michael Peyrefitte today argued the merits of Espat’s purported suspension at the last sitting of the House back in August. Espat was to debate the Special Immigration Audit, but before that could happen, hell broke loose and he was removed from the chamber by the security forces after an exchange with the Speaker. Peyrefitte says the court has no jurisdiction on the House proceedings, but the Cayo South Representative says that argument is flawed.  So will Espat be in the House for its next sitting in December? News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Cayo South Area Representative Julius Espat was absent from court today where a hearing was held in the chamber of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.  The matter arises from a claim brought by the parliamentarian after being unceremoniously ejected from the House of Representatives back in August.  The exchange between Speaker of the House Michael Peyrefitte and Espat over unparliamentary behavior resulted in a suspension that is being challenged in the Supreme Court.  Litigation resumed this morning, following an adjournment at the end of October.

 

Andrew Marshalleck

Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney for Julius Espat

“The defendants who are the Speaker, the Clerk and the Attorney General have offered no defense to the claim on the merits yet, but instead applied to have the matter struck out on two grounds.  They say that the courts lack jurisdiction to enquire into the internal affairs of parliament and that Mr. Espat has an alternative remedy for redressing what happened; this is to go back to the House for a resolution to terminate the suspension.  Those are the grounds for the application.”

 

Since the last session of the House of Representatives on August twenty-sixth, a meeting that ended abruptly amid confused disturbance in the gallery, as well as the chamber below, there’s been no sitting.  In fact, Espat has gone ahead to challenge the constitutionality of his suspension.  Anecdotally, there is talk that a settlement is being brokered to secure his return to the House.  According to Peyrefitte, he is unaware of any such negotiation.

 

Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, House Speaker

“I’m not aware of any definitive activities.  Naturally, what I will say about part of the procedure today is that there is an alternative remedy in our view and naturally it goes with people speaking to each other to see if we could come up with a resolution to the matter.  It happens in every case.  I am sure that there have been discussions but I am not aware or have not been made aware of the results of any discussions.  But, I mean if there’s a result then it doesn’t matter to me what the result is.”

 

As it stands, Espat’s suspension, whether or not it is lawful, has brought about a loss of income.  More importantly, he has also been stripped of funds related to his post as an area representative; those include the community vote, as well as office incidentals.

 

Andrew Marshalleck

“It’s a curious thing because if what happened wasn’t a lawful suspension then he does have that authority and he’s being wrongfully prevented from using it.  But as things stand, he’s not welcomed on the premises.  The officials there treat him as having been suspended [and] we’re saying that there was no valid, lawful suspension and if there was no valid lawful suspension then obviously there can be no resolution to terminate what didn’t happen.  So that is not an option and that was the argument that was presented.”

 

The next House Meeting is tentatively scheduled for December sixteenth, a week and a half after the CJ hands down his decision on the matter.  The question is, will the People’s United Party’s Deputy Leader complete the thirty-one seats in that meeting?

 

Michael Peyrefitte

“It’s always my expectation that there will always be thirty-one members there, but the Chief Justice will make a decision on December sixth so we’ll know whether or not one particular member will be allowed to be there I suspect.  But, whatever the Chief Justice decides that’s the decision that we will all have to respect. What the claimant is also asking for is injunctive relief.  So I don’t know if the decision on the application will also come with some injunctive relief, I don’t know.”

 

Earlier today, government’s lawyers made an application that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over parliamentary matters.  Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck points to existing legal precedence.

 

Andrew Marshalleck

“In short, in response to their application we are comfortable that there is jurisdiction in the court to enquire into this matter where the speaker has acted so clearly outside the scope of his authority.”

 

Reporter

“And does the authority that you cited suggest that the court does have jurisdiction in this matter?”

 

Andrew Marshalleck

“This has happened before and those arguments have been run before and failed before.”

 

Reporter

“Now is there a parallel action, we’ve heard word of talk across the floor, outside the house, to bring some sort of action to reinstate Mr. Espat if we agree that he has been suspended.  However, is there any parallel action to reinstate him in a peaceable, non-confrontational, non-litigational manner?”

 

Andrew Marshalleck

“Well, we have a problem in that he doesn’t accept that he is being lawfully suspended and the Speaker still insists that he has and the only way to resolve that is exactly how we’re doing it.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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