New THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis, left, gives an elbow bounce to Tracey Davidson-Celestine, the head of the Tobago PNM Council, after he was elected on Wednesday in Scarborough, Tobago.

Tobago House of Assembly in the early days when the THA Act #40 of 1996 became law, say the THA Act does not address the current situation involving a new Chief Secretary being sworn in months before the end of the current end of the term.

The issue arose after THA Minority Leader Watson Duke challenged the election of new Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis on Wednesday, saying it was “null and void.”

But former assemblymen Stanley Beard and Benedict Armstrong say the THA Act is “silent on the matter.”

However, they differ on the possible legal outcome if the matter is taken to the High Court as proposed by Duke.

Weighing in on the situation, Armstrong, a former deputy chairman in the assembly before 1996 when the new act took effect, said: “Duke is crazy. Although the act does not make provisions for this scenario, the act is clear on the matter.

“It says if a situation occurs that is not in the act, the assembly shall look at what prevails in the national parliament in this country.”

He added: “The act also said that if it is not addressed by laws in Trinidad, then the assembly shall look at what prevails in England.”

Beard, former tourism secretary during the same era as Armstrong, said: “Duke may have a case because the THA Act does not deal with the situation.

“Precedent can be set from this case. All this wrangling must have (ANR) Robinson turning in this grave.”

The vacant post of chief secretary had to be filled after former chief secretary Kelvin Charles resigned from the post and stepped down at the end of April. He made this decision after he was defeated in the People’s National Movement’s internal party elections in January by Tracey Davidson-Celestine.

Although Joel Jack was the acting Chief Secretary and could have been allowed to hold on as Chief Secretary until the end of the term, his colleagues decided to elect Dennis on Wednesday.


But just after the special Assembly Legislature Sitting to elect Dennis as Chief Secretary on Wednesday, Duke told reporters the appointment was “illegal” and the Minority Council would “not recognise Ancil Dennis as the Chief Secretary.”

“Anything he does is null and void and of no effect. It is illegal,” Duke said.

He said the council will “approach the High Court to seek not just an injunction but to reverse this, to nullify this election.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Duke had written to Presiding Officer Vanessa Cutting-Thomas asking her to explain the legal grounds on which she was holding the special sitting.

He warned that he intended to take legal action to either prevent the sitting from taking place or nullifying the appointment if the vacant post was filled.

“The Standing Orders do not provide any clear mandate giving you the authority to elect a new chief secretary under the circumstances that currently prevail in the Tobago House of Assembly,” he wrote to Cutting-Thomas.